Earlier this week, Category 5 Hurricane Dorian stalled over the Bahamas, causing mass destruction on the islands and threatening Florida’s East coast with intense storm surges and wind gusts. Residents from Miami to the Carolinas prepared by stocking up on water, filling up their gas tanks, and boarding up windows on their homes. As the storm makes its way up the East coast, many are still worried about the impending risk of coastal erosion.
Coastal erosion is the natural process of sediment removal over time, which causes shorelines to reshape and recede. This process is intensified by storms like Hurricane Dorian, but can also be instigated by wave action, currents, wind, flooding, and even human activity. Here in South Florida, the effects of coastal erosion on our local communities can be significant. As coastal erosion causes our shorelines to retreat, our community becomes more susceptible to increased flooding during “King Tides” and storms, which can result in more severe damage to local homes and businesses. Additionally, coastal erosion can cause our beautiful sandy beaches to disappear, negatively impacting our tourism industry and residents who want to enjoy Florida’s natural beauty.
Fortunately, there are several methods to prevent coastal erosion and improve affected areas. Foremost, preserving and restoring our natural mangroves and dune vegetation can help prevent erosion. These plants’ complex root systems retain sediments which are essential in stabilizing our coastline. Additional coastal erosion mitigation tools such as seawalls, breakwaters, and jetties can also prevent sand from washing away by acting as a barrier to wave energy. In areas where erosion has occurred, new sand can be transported and deposited to replenish the sediments through a process called “beach nourishment”, currently utilized throughout Florida. At Cummins Cederberg, we routinely use all these methods to provide dynamic designs on projects in order to prevent coastal erosion and protect homes, businesses, parks, and wildlife.