Artificial Reefs: The Wave of the Future?
FORT MYERS, FL - Although other countries have been utilizing artificial reefs for shore protection for years, the U.S. is just now beginning to adopt the method. Traditionally, artificial reefs have been thought of as a way to enhance marine life, but more recently coastal scientists and engineers have found that they can also provide increased shore protection and enhance surfing.
According to Bob Grove, senior scientist for Southern California Edison, the trick in using artificial reefs is to pinpoint the exact purpose for the reef and engineer it properly. "It is very important to define exactly what the goal of the project is before constructing the reef," he said.
One current project is in its final design phase at Oil Piers in Ventura County, Calif., where the goal is to install a submerged reef system that will stabilize the beach through wave rotation and dissipate energy. The project is funded through a special Corps of Engineers program to demonstrate alternative forms of shore protection. This reef will change the alignment of breaking waves and reduce the power with which breaking waves hit the shoreline and scour sand away. Surfers are hoping for improved surfing in this area as well.
One reason artificial reefs are gaining in popularity for shore protection is that they are mostly submerged underwater and do not degrade the natural beauty of the beach.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers considers artificial reefs an "innovative" approach to retaining sand, and its engineers must approve any artificial reefs prior to construction in state and federal waters.
In addition, there are several other national agencies that might need to be consulted prior to construction of an artificial reef, including the U.S. Coast Guard, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the National Ocean Service. Among items included in the permitting plan are placement, size and design of the reef. Individual state agencies may have their own permitting processes, as well.
Another sand retention reef project underway is at Fletcher Cove in Solana Beach, Calif. A reef there could be used in conjunction with ongoing and planned beach nourishment projects to improve overall effectiveness of the sand retention efforts.
If the current artificial reef projects underway in the U.S. are successful, more projects could come in the future.
"Artificial reefs have gone up and down in popularity over the years - they were popular in the 1980s, but not in the 1990s," Grove said. "They appear to be gaining in popularity once again."
(This information is provided by the American Shore & Beach Preservation Association.)
Return to Current Edition