Coastal Management

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Coastal management is defense against flooding and erosion, and techniques that allow erosion to claim lands.

Coastal engineering, as it relates to harbours, starts with the development of ancient civilizations together with the origin of maritime traffic, perhaps before 3500 B.C. Docks, breakwaters, and other harbour works were built by hand and often in a grand scale. Basic source of modern literature on coastal engineering is the "European Code of Conduct for Coastal Zones" issued by the European Council in 1999. This document was prepared by the Group of Specialists on Coastal Protection and should be used 'as a source of inspiration for national legislation and practice' by decision makers.

The Group of Specialists set up in 1995, pursuant to a decision by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, who met for the first time on 6 and 7 June 1996. It noted that a great deal of technical and scientific research had been carried out in the field of coastal protection and that various principles and legal texts had been drawn up. It also noted that all of the work undertaken highlighted the need for integrated management and planning of coastal areas, but that, despite all the efforts already made, the situation of coastal areas continued to deteriorate. The Group had acknowledged that this was due to difficulties in implementing the concept of "integrated management", and that it was becoming necessary to provide instruments which would make it easier to apply the principles of integrated coastal management and planning, which had to be pursued to ensure sustainable management of coastal areas. The Group therefore proposed that the Council of Europe, in close co-operation with the Coastal & Marine Union (EUCC) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The final version of the Code as well of the a MODEL LAW to be used as a guide for modefying local and national legislation, can be free downloaded from the web.

Ancient harbour works are still visible in a few of the harbours that exist today, while others have recently been explored by underwater archaeologists. Most of the grander ancient harbor works have disappeared following the fall of the Western Roman Empire.

Most coastal efforts were directed to port structures, with the exception of a few places where life depended on coastline protection. Venice and its lagoon is one such case. Protection of the shore in Italy, England and the Netherlands can be traced back at least to the 6th century. The ancients understood such phenomena as the Mediterranean currents and wind patterns and the wind-wave cause-effect link.

The Romans introduced many revolutionary innovations in harbor design. They learned to build walls underwater and managed to construct solid breakwaters to protect fully exposed harbors. In some cases wave reflection may have been used to prevent silting. They also used low, water-surface breakwaters to trip the waves before they reached the main breakwater. They became the first dredgers in the Netherlands to maintain the harbour at Velsen. Silting problems here were solved when the previously sealed solid piers were replaced with new "open"-piled jetties.

Middle Ages

The threat of attack from the sea caused many coastal towns and their harbours to be abandoned. Other harbours were lost due to natural causes such as rapid silting, shoreline advance or retreat, etc. The Venetian Lagoon was one of the few populated coastal areas with continuous prosperity and development where written reports document the evolution of coastal protection works.

Engineering and scientific skills remained alive in the east, in Byzantium, where the Eastern Roman Empire survived for six hundred years while Western Rome decayed.

Modern Age

Although great strides were made in the general scientific arena, little improvement was done beyond the Roman approach to harbour construction after the Renaissance. In the early 19th century, the advent of the steam engine, the search for new lands and trade routes, the expansion of the British Empire through her colonies, and other influences, all contributed to the revitalization of sea trade and a renewed interest in port works.

Twentieth century

Evolution of shore protection and the shift from structures to beach nourishment. Prior to the 1950s, the general practice was to use hard structures to protect against beach erosion or storm damages. These structures were usually coastal armoring such as seawalls and revetments or sand-trapping structures such as groynes. During the 1920s and '30s, private or local community interests protected many areas of the shore using these techniques in a rather ad hoc manner. In certain resort areas, structures had proliferated to such an extent that the protection actually impeded the recreational use of the beaches. Erosion of the sand continued, but the fixed back-beach line remained, resulting in a loss of beach area.

The obtrusiveness and cost of these structures led in the late 1940s and early 1950s, to move toward a new, more dynamic, method. Projects no longer relied solely on hard coastal defence structures, as techniques were developed which replicated the protective characteristics of natural beach and dune systems. The resultant use of artificial beaches and stabilized dunes as an engineering approach was an economically viable and more environmentally friendly means for dissipating wave energy and protecting coastal developments.

Over the past hundred years the limited knowledge of coastal sediment transport processes at the local authorities level has often resulted in inappropriate measures of coastal erosion mitigation. In many cases, measures may have solved coastal erosion locally but have exacerbated coastal erosion problems at other locations -up to tens of kilometers away- or have generated other environmental problems.

Current challenges in coastal management[edit]

The coastal zone is a region where interaction of the sea and land processes occurs.[1] They occupy less than 15% of the Earth's land surface; yet accommodate more than 40% of the world population. Nearly 1.2 billion people live within 100 km of a shoreline and 100 m of sea level with an average density nearly 3 times higher than the global average for population.[2] With three-quarters of the world population expected to reside in the coastal zone by 2025, human activities originating from this small land area will impose an inordinate amount of pressures on the global system. Coastal zones contain rich resources to produce goods and services and are home to most commercial and industrial activities. In the European Union, almost half of the population now lives within 50 kilometres of the sea and coastal zone resources produce much of the Union's economic wealth. The fishing, shipping and tourism industries all compete for vital space along Europe's estimated 89 000 kilometres of coastline, and coastal zones contain some of Europe's most fragile and valuable natural habitats. Shore protection consists up to the 50's of interposing a static structure between the sea and the land to prevent erosion and or flooding, and it has a long history. From that period new technical or friendly policies have been developed to preserve the environment when possible. It is already important where there are extensive low-lying areas that require protection. For instance: Venice, New Orleans, Nagara river in Japan, the Netherlands, Caspian Sea. Protection against sea level rise in the 21st century will be especially important, as sea level rise is currently accelerating. This will be a challenge to coastal management, since seawalls and breakwaters are generally expensive to construct, and the costs to build protection in the face of sea-level rise would be enormous.

Changes in sea level have a direct adaptative response from beaches and coastal systems, as we can see in the succession of a lowering sea level. When the sea level rises, coastal sediments are in part pushed up by wave and tide energy, so sea-level rise processes have a component of sediment transport landwards. This results in a dynamic model of rise effects with a continuous sediment displacement that is not compatible with static models where coastline change is only based on topographic data.

Planning approaches[edit]

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Five general coastal management strategies

There are five generic strategies [1] for coastal defense:

· inaction leading to eventual abandonment

· Managed retreat or realignment, which plans for retreat and adopts engineering solutions that recognise natural processes of adjustment, and identifies a new line of defence where to construct new defences

· Hold the line, shoreline protection, whereby seawalls are constructed around the coastlines

· Move seawards, this happens by constructing new defenses seaward the original ones

Limited intervention, accommodation, by which adjustments are made to be able to cope with inundation, raising coastal land and buildings vertically

The decision to choose a strategy is site-specific, depending on pattern of relative sea-level change, geomorphological setting, sediment availability and erosion, as well a series of social, economic and political factors.

Alternatively, integrated coastal zone management approaches may be used to prevent development in erosion- or flood-prone areas to begin with. Growth management can be a challenge for coastal local authorities who often struggle to provide the infrastructure required by new residents seeking seachange lifestyles.[3] Sustainable transport investment to reduce the average footprint of coastal visitors is often a good way out of coastal gridlock. Examples include Dongtan and the Gold Coast Oceanway.

The 'Managed Retreat' option, involving no protection, is cheap and expedient. The coast takes care of itself and coastal facilities are abandoned to coastal erosion, with either gradual landward retreat or evacuation and resettlement elsewhere. This is the usual response when land of little value will be lost. The only pollution produced is from the resettlement process. Where endangered property has high value, it is less often applied.

Managed retreat[edit]

Main article: Managed retreat

Managed retreat is an alternative to constructing or maintaining coastal structures. Managed retreat allows an area to become flooded. This process is usually in low lying estuarine or deltaic areas and floods land that has at some point in the past been reclaimed from the sea. Managed retreat is often a response to a change in sediment budget or to sea level rise. The technique is used when the land adjacent to the sea is low in value. A decision is made to allow the land to erode and flood, creating new shoreline habitats. This process may continue over many years and natural stabilization will occur.

The earliest managed retreat in the UK was an area of 0.8 ha at Northey Island in starfish island flooded in 1991. This was followed by Tollesbury and Orplands in Essex, where the sea walls were breached in 1995. In the Ebro delta (Spain) coastal authorities have planned a managed retreat in response to coastal erosion (MMA 2005, Sitges, Meeting on Coastal Engineering; EUROSION project).

Cost – The main cost is generally the purchase of land to be flooded. Compensation for relocation of residents may be needed. Any other human made structure which will be engulfed by the sea may need to be safely dismantled to prevent sea pollution. In some cases, a retaining wall or bund must be constructed inland in order to protect land beyond the area to be flooded, although such structures can generally be lower than would be needed on the existing coast. Monitoring of the evolution of the flooded area is another cost. Costs may be lowest if existing defenses are left to fail naturally, but often the realignment project will be more actively managed, for example by creating an artificial breach in existing defences to allow the sea in at a particular place in a controlled fashion, or by pre-forming drainage channels for created salt-marsh.

Hold the line[edit]

Human strategies on the coast have been heavily based on a static engineered response, whereas the coast is in, or strives towards, a dynamic equilibrium (Schembri, 2009). Solid coastal structures are built and persist because they protect expensive properties or infrastructures, but they often relocate the problem downdrift or to another part of the coast. Soft options like beach nourishment, while also being temporary and needing regular replenishment, appear more acceptable, and go some way to restore the natural dynamism of the shoreline. However, in many cases there is a legacy of decisions that were made in the past which have given rise to the present threats to coastal infrastructure and which necessitate immediate shore protection. For instance, the seawall and promenade of many coastal cities in Europe represents a highly engineered use of prime seafront space, which might be preferably designated as public open space, parkland and amenities if it were available today. Such open space might also allow greater flexibility in terms of future land-use change, for instance through managed retreat, in the face of threats of erosion or inundation as a result of sea-level rise. Foredunes areas represent a natural reserve which can be called upon in the face of extreme events; building on these areas leaves little option but to undertake costly protective measures when extreme events (whether amplified by gradual global change or not) threaten. Managed retreat can comprise 'setbacks', rolling easements and other planning tools including building within a particular design life. Maintenance of those structures or soft techniques can arrive at a critical point (economically or environmental) to change adopted strategy.

Structural or hard engineering techniques, i.e. using permanent concrete and rock constructions to "fix" the coastline and protect the assets locate behind. These techniques--seawalls, groynes, detached breakwaters, and revetments—represent a significant share of protected shoreline in Europe (more than 70%).

Soft engineering techniques (e.g. sand nourishments), building with natural processes and relying on natural elements such as sands, dunes and vegetation to prevent erosive forces from reaching the backshore. These techniques include beach nourishment and sand dune stabilization.

Move seaward[edit]

The futility of trying to predict future scenarios where there is a large human influence is apparent. Even future climate is to a certain extent a function of what humans choose to make of it, for example by restricting greenhouse gas emissions to control climate change. In some cases - where new areas are needed for new economic or ecological development - a move seaward strategy can be adopted. Examples from erosion include: Koge Bay (Dk) Western Scheldt estuary (NI), Chatelaillon (F), Ebro delta (E)[4]

There is an obvious downside to this strategy. Coastal erosion is already widespread, and there are many coasts where exceptional high tides or storm surges result in encroachment on the shore, impinging on human activity. If the sea rises, many coasts that are developed with infrastructure along or close to the shoreline will be unable to accommodate erosion. They will experience a so-called "coastal squeeze" whereby the ecological or geomorphological zones that would normally retreat landwards encounter solid structures and are squeezed out. Wetlands, salt marshes, mangroves and adjacent fresh water wetlands are particularly likely to suffer from this squeeze.

An upside to the strategy is that moving seaward (and upward) can create land of high value which can bring the investment required to cope with climate change.

Limited intervention[edit]

Limited intervention is an action taken whereby the management only solves the problem to some extent, usually in areas of low economic significance. Measures taken using limited intervention often encourage the succession of haloseres, including salt marshes and sand dunes. This will normally result in the land behind the halosere being more sufficiently protected, as wave energy will be dissipated by the accumulated sediment and additional vegetation residing in the newly formed habitat. Although the new halosere is not strictly man-made, as many natural processes will contribute to the succession of the halosere, anthropogenic factors are partially responsible for the formation as an initial factor was needed to help start the process of succession. This must not be confused with 'accommodate' which is about property for example effective insurance, early warning systems and not about habitat