Coastal Management

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Construction techniques[edit]

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The following is a catalogue of relevant techniques that could be employed as coastal management techniques. The costs given are very rough estimates made during 2005, based on UK Pound sterling.

Hard Engineering Methods[edit]


Groyne at Mundesley, Norfolk, UK

Main article: Groyne

Groynes are barriers or walls perpendicular to the sea, often made of greenharts, concrete, rock or wood. Beach material builds up on the downdrift side, where littoral drift is predominantly in one direction, creating a wider and a more plentiful beach, therefore enhancing the protection for the coast because the sand material filters and absorbs the wave energy. However, there is a corresponding loss of beach material on the updrift side, requiring that another groyne to be built there. Moreover, groynes do not protect the beach against storm-driven waves and if placed too close together will create currents, which will carry sand material offshore.

Groynes are extremely cost-effective coastal defence measures, requiring little maintenance, and are one of the most common coastal defence structures. However, groynes are increasingly viewed as detrimental to the aesthetics of the coastline, and face strong opposition in many coastal communities.[5]

Many experts[who?] consider groynes to be a "soft" solution to coastal erosion because of the enhancement of the existing beach.

But groyne construction creates a problem known as terminal groyne syndrome. The terminal groyne prevents longshore drift from bringing material to other nearby places. This is a common problem along the Hampshire and Sussex coastline in the UK; an example is Worthing. Beach material does not get washed away because of these groynes but can cause damage to other parts of the coast.[citation needed]

Sea walls[edit]

Main article: Seawall

Walls of concrete or rock, built at the base of a cliff or at the back of a beach, are used to protect a settlement against erosion or flooding. They are usually about 3–5 metres (10–16 ft) high. Older-style vertical seawalls reflected all the energy of the waves back out to sea, and for this purpose were often given recurved crest walls which also increase the local turbulence, and thus increasing entrainment of sand and sediment. During storms, sea walls help longshore drift.

Modern seawalls aim to re-direct most of the incident energy, resulting in low reflected waves and much reduced turbulence and thus take the form of sloping revetments. Current designs use porous designs of rock, concrete armour (Seabees, SHEDs, Xblocs) with intermediate flights of steps for beach access, whilst in places where high rates of pedestrian access are required, the steps take over the whole of the frontage, but at a flatter slope if the same crest levels are to be achieved.

Care needs to be taken in the location of a seawall, particularly in relation to the swept prism of the beach profile, the consequences of long-term beach recession and amenity crest level. These factors must be considered in assessing the cost-benefit ratio, which must be favorable in order to justify construction of a seawall.

Sea walls can cause beaches to dissipate, rendering them useless for beach goers. Their presence also scars the very landscape that they are trying to save.

Modern examples can be found at Cronulla (NSW, 1985-6),[6] Blackpool (1986–2001),[7] Lincolnshire (1992–1997)[8] and Wallasey (1983–1993).[9] The sites at Blackpool and Cronulla can be visited both by Google Earth and by local webcams (Cronulla, Cleveleys).

An example is the seawall at Sandwich, Kent, where the Seabee seawall is buried at the back of the beach under the shingle with crest level at road kerb level.

Sea walls are probably the second most traditional method used in coastal management.

Sea walls cost £10,000 per metre (depending on material, height and width), £10,000,000 per km (depending on material, height and width).[citation needed]


Main article: Revetments

Wooden slanted or upright blockades, built parallel to the sea on the coast, usually towards the back of the beach to protect the cliff or settlement beyond. The most basic revetments consist of timber slants with a possible rock infill. Waves break against the revetments, which dissipate and absorb the energy. The cliff base is protected by the beach material held behind the barriers, as the revetments trap some of the material. They may be watertight, covering the slope completely, or porous, to allow water to filter through after the wave energy has been dissipated. Most revetments do not significantly interfere with transport of longshore drift. Since the wall greatly absorbs the energy instead of reflecting, it erodes and destroys the revetment structure; therefore, major maintenance will be needed within a moderate time of being built, this will be greatly determined by the material the structure was built with and the quality of the product.

The Cost – Confirmed by material used; est. $2340–$4000. Average $10 per meter built – around £6 GBP.

Rock armour[edit]

Main article: Riprap

Also known as riprap, rock armour are large rocks piled or placed at the foot of dunes or cliffs with native stones of the beach. This is generally used in areas prone to erosion to absorb the wave energy and hold beach material. Although effective, this solution is unpopular due to the fact that it is unsightly. Also, longshore drift is not hindered. Rock armour has a limited lifespan, it is not effective in storm conditions, and it reduces the recreational value of a beach. The cost is around £3000 per metre, depending on the type of rocks used.


Main article: Gabion

Boulders and rocks are wired into mesh cages and usually placed in front of areas vulnerable to heavy erosion: sometimes at cliffs edges or jag out at a right angle to the beach like a large groyne. When the seawater breaks on the gabion, the water drains through leaving sediments, also the rocks and boulders absorb a moderate amount of the wave energy.

Gabions need to be securely tied to prevent abrasion of wire by rocks, or detachment of plastic

Downsides include wear rates and visual intrusiveness.

Cost – est. £11 per m[10]

Offshore breakwater[edit]

Main article: Breakwater (structure)

Massive concrete blocks and natural boulders are sunk offshore to alter wave direction and to filter the energy of waves and tides. The waves break further offshore and therefore reduce their erosive power. This leads to wider beaches, which absorb the reduced wave energy, protecting cliff and settlements behind. The Dolos which was invented by a South African engineer in East London has replaced the use of enormous concrete blocks because the dolos is much more resistant to wave action and requires less concrete to produce a superior result. Similar concrete objects like the Dolos are the A-jack, Akmon, Xbloc and the Tetrapod, Accropode. Cost – est. £2,000 per m. Water depth may increase the cost.[citation needed]

Cliff stabilization[edit]

Main article: Cliff stabilization

Cliff stabilization can be accomplished through drainage of excess rainwater of through terracing, planting, and wiring to hold cliffs in place. Cliff drainage is used to hold a cliff together using plants, fences and terracing, this is used to help prevent landslides and other localized damage.

Entrance training walls[edit]

Main article: Training (civil)

Rock or concrete walls built to constrain a river or creek discharging across a sandy coastline. The walls help to stabilise and deepen the channel which benefits navigation, flood management, river erosion and water quality but can cause coastal erosion due to the interruption of longshore drift. One solution is the installation of a sand bypassing system to pump sand under and around the entrance training walls.

Cost – Expensive – Gold Coast Seaway was a A$50M project in the 1980s and the adjacent sand bypassing project costs A$3M per year to pump 500,000 cubic meters of sand across the trained entrance.[citation needed]


Main article: Floodgate

Storm surge barriers, or floodgates, were introduced after the North Sea Flood of 1953 and are a prophylactic method to prevent damage from storm surges or any other type of natural disaster that could harm the area they "protect". They are habitually open and allow free passage, but close when the land is under threat of a storm surge. The Thames Barrier is an example of such a structure.

Soft Engineering Methods[edit]

Beach Replenishment[edit]

Main article: Beach replenishment

Beach replenishment or nourishment is one of the most popular soft engineering techniques of coastal defence management schemes. This involves importing sand off the beach and piling it on top of the existing sand. The imported sand must be of a similar quality to the existing beach material so it can integrate with the natural processes occurring there, without causing any adverse effects. Beach nourishment can be used alongside the groyne schemes. The scheme requires constant maintenance: 1 to 10-year life before first major recharge. Cost – est. £50-£2000 per metre, plus control structures, ongoing management and minor works.[citation needed]

Sand dune Management[edit]

Main article: Sand dune stabilisation

Sand dune stabilisation or sand dune management works using a number of different methods in order to prevent the loss of sediment on the beach. Firstly the introduction of public amenities such as car parks, footpaths, Dutch Ladders and boardwalks, stop the removal of sediment by humans. Secondly, education of visitors with noticeboards, leaflets and beach wardens explain to visitors how to avoid damaging the area. Thirdly, by using fences constructed of simple materials such as wood, sand traps can create Blowouts. Furthermore, natural plants such as Ammophila , sometimes known as Marram Grass, is introduced to blowouts in order to bind the sediment together - preventing loss. Finally, areas of the beach can be simply closed to the public to allow rejuvenation to occur.

Cost – est. of £1.1 million per annum[citation needed]

Beach drainage[edit]

Beach drainage or beach face dewatering lowers the water table locally beneath the beach face. This causes accretion of sand above the drainage system.[2]

Grant (1946) – the elevation of the beach watertable had an important bearing on deposition and erosion across the foreshore. A high watertable coincided with periods of accelerated beach erosion, and conversely, a low watertable coincided with pronounced aggradation of the foreshore A lower watertable (unsaturated beach face) facilitates deposition by reducing flow velocities during backwash and prolonging laminar flow. In contrast, a high watertable results in condition favoring beach erosion. With the beach in a saturated state, Grant proposed that backwash velocity is accelerated by the addition of groundwater seepage out of the beach within the effluent zone.

Turner and Leatherman (1997) moving from the origins and development of the dewatering concept to field and laboratory studies available at the time of writing concluded that there was too little evidence for being convinced that the systems had a positive effect. None of the case studies provide full scientific evidence of indisputable positive results regarding beach stabilisation although in some cases an overall positive performance was reported. In many cases no adequate long-term monitoring was undertaken at a frequency high enough to discriminate the response to high energy erosive events.

A useful side effect of the system is that the collected seawater is very pure because of the sand filtration effect. It may be discharged back to sea but can also be used to oxygenate stagnant inland lagoons /marinas or used as feed for heat pumps, desalination plants, land-based aquaculture, aquariums or seawater swimming pools.

Beach drainage systems have been installed in many locations around the world to halt and reverse erosion trends in sand beaches. Twenty four beach drainage systems have been installed since 1981 in Denmark, USA, UK, Japan, Spain, Sweden, France, Italy and Malaysia.


The costs of installation and operation per meter of shoreline protection will vary due to

· system length (non-linear cost elements)

· pump flow rates (sand permeability, power costs)

· soil conditions (presence of rock or impermeable strata)

· discharge arrangement /filtered seawater utilization

· drainage design, materials selection & installation methods

· geographical considerations (location logistics)

· regional economic considerations (local capabilities /costs)

study requirements /consent process.

The costs associated with a beach drainage system are generally considerably lower than hard engineered structures. They also compare very favorably with beach nourishment projects, particularly when long-term project economics are considered (nourishment projects often have a limited life or a program of re-nourishment).

Monitoring coastal zones[edit]

Coastal zone managers are faced with difficult and complex choices about how best to reduce property damage in the shorelines. One of the problems they face is error and uncertainty in the information available to them on the processes that cause erosion of beaches. Video-based monitoring lets collect data continuously at low cost and produce analyses of shoreline processes over a wide range of averaging intervals.

Event warning systems[edit]

Event warning systems, such as tsunami warnings and storm surge warnings, can be used to minimize the human impact of catastrophic events that cause coastal erosion. Storm surge warnings can also be used to determine when to close floodgates to reduce the physical impact of such events.

Wireless sensor networks can be deployed quickly to set up a coastal erosion monitoring system, and scaled accordingly.

Shoreline mapping[edit]

Defining the shoreline is a difficult task due to the dynamic nature of the coast and the intended application of the shoreline (Graham et al. 2003; Boak & Turner 2005). Given this idea the shoreline must therefore be considered in a temporal sense whereby the scale is dependent on the context of the investigation (Boak & Turner 2005). The following definition of the coast and shoreline is most commonly employed for the purposes of shoreline mapping. The coast comprises the interface between land and sea, and the shoreline is represented by the margin between the two (Woodroffe, 2002). Due to the dynamic nature of the shoreline coastal investigators adopt the use of shoreline indicators to represent the true shoreline position (Boak & Turner 2005).

Shoreline indicator[edit]

The choice of shoreline indicator is a primary consideration in shoreline mapping. According to Leatherman (2003) it is important that indicators are easily identified in the field and on aerial photography. Shoreline indicators may be physical beach morphological features such as the berm crest, scarp edge, vegetation line, dune toe, dune crest and cliff or the bluff crest and toe. Alternatively, non-morphological features may also be used. These indicators are based on water level including the high water line, mean high water line, wet/dry boundary, and the physical water line (Pajak & Leatherman 2000). Figure 1 provides a sketch of the spatial relationship between many of the commonly used shoreline indicators.

The high water line (HWL), defined as the wet/dry line (H in Figure 1) is the most commonly used shoreline indicator because it is visible in the field, and can be interpreted on both colour and grey scale aerial photographs (Leatherman, 2003; Crowell et al. 1991). The HWL represents the landward extent of the most recent high tide and is characterised by a change in sand colour due to repeated, periodic inundation by high tides. The HWL is portrayed on aerial photographs by the most landward change in colour or grey tone (Boak & Turner 2005).

A diagram representing the spatial relationship between many of the commonly used indicators. (Adapted from Boak and Turner 2005)