Wave energy naturally breaks up sediment in the oceans and carries it shoreward with the tide. The heavier granules drop out first, while the finer ones get deposited on land, creating our beaches and sandbars. Just as deep sand can very quickly de-energize and stop a speeding car, it can also do the same to large waves from storm activity, thereby protecting our coastlines.
The “problem” is that shallow sandy waterways near the shore also impede large boats from getting close to land and into and out of protected harbors. Over the last century, in the name of commerce, we have continually dredged these areas to remove huge quantities of protective sand. Any child playing at the beach knows that when you dig a hole in the ocean, nature immediately tries to fill it in– with the surrounding beach. Further, by removing so much sand, waves are no longer de-energized and crash onto the shore, ripping away even more beach.
Most infuriating are those people who look at the resulting massive erosion and say “erosion is simply mother nature doing her thing, you can’t fight nature, nor should you even try”. Wrong. Rather, this is the earth desperately trying to heal itself from being horribly ripped open in a totally unnatural way by man.
The good news is that there are solutions. We can build off-shore ports where the water is naturally deep. We have accretion engineering solutions that allow our shore bottoms and beaches to heal in months, not years.
How can I tell if â€œmyâ€ beach is eroding?
Simply take a walk on your favorite beach and answer these questions:
1. Have you seen a noticeable loss of sand, a narrowing of the beach, or, does the water appear to be â€œhigherâ€ at high tides? Â [This indicates a loss of beach elevation.]
2. Do you have a marina, a river mouth, or man-made structures such as seawalls, revetments, rock piles, jetties or groins within a mile of your beach- either upstream or downstream from your beach? [These structures would disrupt the littoral drift.]
3. Do you have areas of the beach that â€œdrop offâ€, or look like small â€œbroken cliffsâ€, known as scarping? [This would be the result of excessive wave energy.]
4. Do you have buildings, parking lots, homes within 1000 feet (330m) of the water? [These might be causing excessive rainwater runoff.]
5. Do you have periodic beach closings during the summer months, if so approximately how many times per year? [This would signify excessive rainwater runoff carrying toxins.]
6. Is there a current ban on shell-fishing in your area, or in recent memory? Â [This would signify excessive rainwater runoff carrying toxins.]
7. Is there a noticeable downward slope from the beach area to the water?Â [This would be the result of excessive wave energy.]
8. If you have jetties or rock groins that extend into the water, is there a noticeable difference in the height of the sand on one side to the other? [This would indicate sand is being trapped in an unbalanced way.]
9. Has there been sand renourishment (sand dumping) needed to stave off beach loss? [Obviously the beach was declared as eroded.]
10. Was the sand renourishment effort â€œwashed awayâ€ after a large storm or in less than a 2-5 year period? [This indicates the erosion “fix” was merely cosmetic.]
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, it is likely that your beach is at risk or is already experiencing excessive erosion. Contact the Beach Recovery Foundation today to talk about possible solutions.