Beach erosion is a serious issue. In fact, it’s more impacting than you might suspect at first. In a related study, beaches were analyzed along the Atlantic Coast, where many bunkers that were used by the Germans during World War Two still lie. According to analysis, over the past 60 some-odd years, most of these bunkers are now mostly underwater, about two-thirds of the way submerged, an estimated 200 meters of total recession since the war (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modern_recession_of_beaches). This is telling of the ongoing erosion that is occurring due to the forces of Mother Nature and the ocean. Put into a more modern subtext, this same erosion is occurring around the world, at some of the most popular islands and also at some of the most popular and frequented beaches, like Miami Beach. Fortunately, there are some modern beach erosion solutions that are being implemented in countries worldwide that can help prevent these devastating effects from destroying our most cherished waterside attractions.
Adding sand is not the most sustainable option. For countless years, this has really been the governmental quick fix to eroding beaches. A popularly used method in coastal areas, particularly those that attract tourists each season, it is the most commonly used modern method right now. Experts warn, however, that’s it’s not a permanent solution, and it’s costly. Adding more sand to replaced lost sand does not stop erosion. It makes the beach prettier, sure, but the sand will still eventually erode away to the underlying problem. Miami Beach is a good example of how long this method can sustain a beach. During the 1980s it was entirely reshaped with new sand, and still is standing strong today, more than 30 years later.
During the ‘40s, groins were designed by the Army Corps of Engineers and were placed along waterways subject to erosion to prevent it from occurring. The most famous beach these groins were placed at was Coney Island Beach in New York. Groins act as water breaking devices, and consist of metal and concrete. They have also been placed as far out as 300 yards to break incoming waves and reduce the impact they have upon the shoreline. The groins have a downside: they also trap sand, which suffocates beaches that are located downstream.
A relatively newer solution consists of something that is being called underwater stabilizers. This solution is currently in place at an estimated 100 waterways worldwide. An array of plastic barriers that have a unique shape are placed in strategic positions lining the water of the shore. Basically, the design takes on the force of the incoming waves and uses the inertia to revert the wave energy, essentially spilling the wave back out to sea instead of allowing it to erode the beach.
In the U.S., Congress is currently reviewing an act called the Water Resources Development Act of 2000. The act outlines current erosion control methods and policies. If it were amended, one could expect some government funded solutions to be in place in the years to come. Until then, private companies are still devising and patenting the most effective solutions of the present era.