Tag Archives: Beach Nourishment

Are there any natural beaches remaining in the United States?

Beach re-nourishment, California. Photo source: © SAF — Coastal Care

By Robert Young, Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines, Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, North Carolina, United States


Over the last several decades, beaches on the US Atlantic and Gulf Coasts have experienced rapid development. The vast majority of this development is in the form of vacation homes and investment property.

As the value of coastal property has skyrocketed, the demand to protect these investments from coastal erosion and storms has grown. The result has been a massive transformation of America’s beaches from fully functioning, geomorphic systems with high quality habitat to non-stop engineering projects designed primarily to function as storm buffers for infrastructure.

The most prevalent form of coastal engineering along US beaches today is beach nourishment (rebuilding the beach by pumping sand from another source). Proponents now prefer to use the term “beach restora- tion”. Yet, rebuilding beaches in this way does not meet any of the requirements for environmental restoration as defined by the Society for Ecological Restoration International.

In addition, a recent study commissioned by the US National Park Service and conducted by the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines indicates that even the supposedly protected National Seashores of the US East and Gulf Coasts have had significant impacts from coastal engineering activities.

It is critical that any beaches that still have fully functioning physical and biological systems be identified and protected. We do not need to protect them from erosion. We need to protect them from those who wish to stop the erosion at any cost.

European Geosciences Union, Meeting 2011, Vienna

Sydney’s Beach protection attempt may carry price tag of $700m

Bondi beach, Australia. Photograph: © SAF — Coastal Care


Preserving Sydney’s beaches against rising sea levels could cost more than $700 million over the next 50 years and would require the government to reverse its long-standing position regarding offshore sand mining, according to a study on climate change-induced beach erosion…

Read Full Article, The Sydney Morning Herald

Land Reclamation at Rotterdam, Netherlands

Sand dredging off the Dutch coast. Sand is brought from a certain distance from the coast with this kind of ship. Then, it’s added to the beach or dumped in the sea very close to the coastline. Photo source: ©© Inyucho

Excerpt from NASA, Earth observatory

In between Germany and France sit the Low Countries, a coastal region of northwestern Europe, consisting of Belgium, the Nehterlands, and Luxembourg, also called Benelux, and where much of the land surface lies near or even below sea level.

This is the case with a quarter of the land in the Netherlands, where the low elevation leaves the land vulnerable to floods. For the past 2,000 years, the Dutch have employed ever-increasing ingenuity to not only hold back the sea, but to annex land from the North Sea. By the thirteenth century, the Dutch were regularly using windmills to pump water off reclaimed areas known as polders. The Netherlands’ polders have been used for crops, settlements, and ports.

A large-scale application of land reclamation has occurred at Rotterdam.

The Landsat 5 satellite observed the port’s expansion on July 16, 2006, July 1, 2009, and July 4, 2010.

Rotterdam Land Reclamation
Rotterdam, July 16, 2006

Rotterdam Land Reclamation
Rotterdam, July 1, 2009

Rotterdam Land Reclamation
Rottedam, July 4, 2010

Originating as a fourteenth-century settlement along a small peat river, Rotterdam eventually grew into Europe’s largest seaport. By 2009, 400 million tons of cargo traveled through the port, but Rotterdam was nearing its capacity. To keep the port competitive, authorities undertook an ambitious project aimed at tripling the port’s capacity.

The aim of the Rotterdam project, known as Maasvlakte 2, is to add 5,000 acres of new land while keeping the port fully functional. Using the same fleet of dredging ships that built Dubai’s Palm Islands, construction workers steadily acquired new land from the sea floor. The process involved sucking sand from the bottom of the ocean and spraying that sand onto designated areas to build up their height. With the sand in place, the next step would involve paving the reclaimed land with some 20,000 massive stone blocks to prevent the reclaimed areas from washing away.

The primary aim for the new land is to serve as container terminals. Raw materials and finished goods shipped over the globe today usually travel in uniformly sized containers that can be transferred between trucks, trains, and ships. By increasing Rotterdam’s container capacity, the Maasvlakte 2 can prevent the port from becoming a trade bottleneck.

Original Article

Maasvlakte 2, Project

Rotterdam Port, Official Site

Rotterdam Port Expansion, It’s Full Speed Ahead, The Wall Street Journal,

Maritime Getaway

2008, Starts of Maasvlakte 2

The Netherlands has grown in size, Dredging Today
An over 4-km long dike has been attached to the mainland off the coast of Rotterdam. The dike forms the contour of Maasvlakte 2, the new expansion of the Rotterdam port. As the coastline presently looks different, the Dutch maps will need to be adapted.

Maasvlakte 2, Science Discovery
The Port of Rotterdam is already Europe’s biggest port, but the Maasvlakte 2 expansion will triple its container capacity in one bold stroke. Stretching 3 miles beyond the former coastline, Maasvlakte 2 will be as large as Midtown and Downtown Manhattan combined.

Dredging Today
Since work started on the construction of Maasvlakte 2 two years ago, 170 million m3 of sand has been brought in. That is more than would be needed to fill the Rotterdam – Fyenoord soccer stadium to the brim 100 times.

Rotterdam Land Reclamation
Rotterdam Land Reclamation, March 27, 2010. Photo Source: Bart Van Damme

Cancun’s Beaches: Vanishing Sand and Wasted Money

Cancun beach erosion. Photo source: ©© John M


Cancun’s eroding white sand beaches are providing a note of urgency to the climate talks being held just south of this seaside resort famed for its postcard-perfect vistas.

Rising sea levels and a series of unusually powerful hurricanes have aggravated the folly of building a tourist destination atop shifting sand dunes on a narrow peninsula…

Read Full Article; USA Today (12-04-2010)

The Battles For The Beaches of Cancun; The Independent (05-08-2010)

Sand Trafficking: Elaborate Schemes,

Waikiki Beach Replenishment

Honolulu, Waikiki coastal over-development. Hawaii. Photo source: ©© Gouldy99


On the Waikiki shoreline, what’s here today will be gone tomorrow. From Kuhio Beach to the Royal Hawaiian Hotel erosion works overtime.

The loss rate’s about one to two feet a year.

The state wants to replenish 24,000 cubic yards of sand, bringing it in from 2,000 feet off shore to widen the beach by 37 feet…

Read Full Article, Hawaii News Now

The battle for the beaches of Cancun

Cancun beach erosion. Photo source: ©© John M


A beach holiday without a beach: a concept even the most shamefaced travel brochure would have difficulty selling. But it’s one that Cancun’s tourist industry is currently battling with.

The beaches in Mexico’s premier fly-and-flop destination are eroding. As of last year, all that remained of one of the world’s most wow-factor beaches was a band of white sand so narrow it would challenge even the trimmest beach body…

Read Full Article, The Independent UK

WATCH: Massive Beach Erosion Cliffs in Cancun (April 2010), You tube Video

WATCH: Cancun, Fast Paced Beach Replenishement, You tube Video

Goleta Beach, California; By Claire Le Guern

Goleta Beach

By Claire Le Guern

Goleta Beach County Park, occupies approximately 29 acres with 4,200 feet of beach frontage in Santa Barbara County. The Beach Park is bounded on the west by the University of California at Santa Barbara and to the north and east, by private natural gas generation and storage facilities. An easement containing various utility and sewage lines traverses the park. To the northwest, Clarence Ward Memorial Boulevard separates the Park from the greater area of Goleta Slough and the Santa Barbara Municipal Airport. All portions of Goleta Beach Park situated landward of the sandy beach are located on top of a clay-rich fill base.

Goleta Beach Park has been a treasured community investment going back to the early 1900s. Today it is still the most heavily used park in the Santa Barbara County system, with an estimated 1.4 million visitors per year.

An ongoing problem concerning Goleta Beach is coastal erosion; sand and sediment is constantly being washed away and the beach is narrowing. After facing several El Niño storms, in the last 14 years, the beach has been eroding at an average rate of 20 feet (6 m)-per-year, and the park and its structures is in danger of being lost.

In response to this erosion, the County has placed several rock revetments on Goleta Beach in attempt to protect the park structures.

In 2009, the California Coastal Commission voted 9-1 to deny Santa Barbara County’s proposal to build a permeable pile pier, a “hard” structure designed to allegedly slow the effects of beach erosion by holding sand on the beach along the wharf at Goleta Beach. But in doing so, this groin project would have interfered with down-coast movement of sand to other beaches.

In March 2010, a “soft “option was chosen, that is: beach nourishment (actually re-nourishment or replenishment). In a sense, beach nourishment certainly appears as a far better solution than construction of hardened structures such as sea walls and groins, in that it allows the beach to continue to exist, well…temporarily! Indeed, beaches must be nourished in perpetuity, again and again and again. One can look at the nourishment record of nearby beaches to get a very rough idea of how long a particular beach may last, but of course, if the big storm occurs the day after the beach is nourished all estimates are meaningless… (Orin Pilkey, PSDS).

Beach (re-)nourishment involves bringing in sand by dredge, barge, or truck, to artificially build up the height and breadth of naturally disappearing beaches. Approximately 50,000 cubic yards of sand
necessary to Goleta’s beach replenishment, has been collected from Santa Barbara West Beach and Harbor. The nourishment project cost was 1.6 millions dollars.

Beach nourishment has both direct and indirect effects upon flora and fauna of the sandy shore, impacts that occur during dredging of subtidal sand, as well as those that occur during emplacement. The loss of beach critters is believed to impact on the shore birds and the swimming nearshore creatures, and to reduce the quality of fishing.

Key to the (temporary) performance of a beach nourishment project resides in sand compatibility used to nourish, the eroding shoreline. The borrow sand must contain essentially all of the same grain sizes that exist on the beach to be replenished. Thus, sand compatibility studies are of utmost importance. Costs for such investigations range from $100,000 to more than $500,000. Nationwide there has been a lack of control of beach sand quality for nourished beaches leading to dozens of beaches that are too rocky, too shelly or with a high mud content.

The shape of a beach may vary over distances of a kilometer to hundreds of kilometers and is based on the balance between processes that promote erosion and processes that favor deposition of sediment. Palliatives and artificial attempts to slow beach erosion exacerbate the problem. Thus, Nature needs to be observed and apprehended in responsible ways, and coastal developpement, construction and re-configuration need to be in accordance with reality.

Santa Barbara County Parks held a public forum last April, to discuss Goleta Beach 2.0, a new plan to protect Goleta Beach from land erosion. The plan includes the option called managed retreat whereby structures, utility lines and the west end parking area at Goleta Beach Park would be moved away from the beach to allow a more natural erosion buffer zone.

The managed retreat option appears as the best solution. Beaches are dynamic, changing in shape over both space and time, while the seas are rising. As the beaches are allowed to naturally grow, upper beach dune plants and dunes will eventually form.

These are nature’s best form of coastal defense.