Coastal beaches are fragile ecosystems and require careful monitoring and support from property owners and municipalities. With rising sea waters as a result of climate change, ongoing wind and water erosion, and flooding and storm surge damage, beaches need infrastructure support and careful remediation of damage.
Maintaining our Dunes
The Atlantic coast beaches have been particularly hard-hit in the last few years, and various methods of remediation for loss of beaches has been attempted. A healthy beach ecosystem has seasonal changes in the berms and dunes that grow as a result of water and wind factors; these dunes can be maintained by encouraging the growth of native salt-tolerant plant life that can help stabilize the sand. Sand fences are another alternative for growing dunes against wind and water erosion and can help control erosion in the early stages. Many public beach areas focus development on walkways and paths that can direct traffic away from the dunes, and various seawalls and fencing solutions can be imposed on both public and private beaches to maintain a healthy system of dunes.
After catastrophic storms and other significant loss, however, infrastructure development needs to include various breakwater applications, dredging, and pumping operations. Various geotextiles can form tubes or berms that help sand collect while allowing water to pass through; these are particularly effective with significant loss of sand due to wind erosion. Geotextile applications can also support the structural development of sandbars offshore. These sandbars tend to be seasonal and help prevent loss of sand with storm surges or other water-based erosion. Building their structural strength can prevent some of the erosion from storm surges and flooding.
When beach loss is severe, there is a loss of both public use and structural support for homes and businesses. The infrastructure development in these cases involves dredging and pumping in new sand, along with adding infrastructure support such as breakwaters and dunes to stabilize the system. The Outer Banks of North Carolina have recently undertaken a very complex and expensive system of engineering supports for their eroding beach systems, including dredging and pumping in new sand.
Stabilizing our Beaches
Planning for beach conservation involves careful monitoring of the health of the beach ecosystem throughout the year, and early intervention when there is loss due to wind or water erosion, storm damage, and other natural events. Long-term planning should include stabilizing the beach with engineered infrastructure supports.
For more information about Belton fabrics for coastal stabilization and beach renourishment, please contact us.