Industry News

OysterBreak: Catching a Break in Shoreline Protection

Establishing shoreline protection has historically involved rock. It works, yet rock is costly to transport, sometimes difficult to install, and usually must be maintained or renewed over time. Modular precast concrete solutions began appearing over ten years ago and are proving to be today's cost effective and successful alternatives. And they are much more versatile.

Multiple manufacturers provide precast concrete systems engineered for wave attenuation and shoreline protection. Most are designed as wave breaks that result in slowed erosion. Some systems afford substantial accretion of sediment, not only protecting the existing shoreline, but in a few cases rebuilding and extending the shoreline.One advantage of these next generation systems is modularity. Through proper engineering these systems are easily contoured to the environment, coastal profile, and wave dynamics. And, because the precast units are large and more monolithic than rock they stay in place and require little or no maintenance.

Some are specifically engineered to attract oysters making the entire project a semi-artificial oyster reef. Such systems improve their value and effectiveness over time as oysters cement the entire system into one large mass simultaneously boosting the value of the marine fishery and improving water quality.

Shoreline protection projects are funded frequently by environmental groups and municipalities. Hard asset protection projects are funded frequently by private industry. As more groups and industries work to minimize their carbon footprint these shoreline protection projects become obvious opportunities for use of mitigation banking. Often, industrial and municipal projects are unable to employ environmental impact mitigation internally. Mitigation banking exchanges offer a flexible and advantageous solution.

Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana had a problem. The waters of Joshua’s Marina Harbor in Buras were close to compromising a critical access highway. In this project, Wayfarer's OysterBreak rings were used along with complementary mat technologies for wave attenuation, soil stabilization, and shoreline protection. Results include not only reduced shoreline erosion, but marsh creation throughout the project area.

Modular precast technologies are only tens of years old, so the companies manufacturing them are working to educate and assist local engineers and project stakeholders. Precast systems offer more flexibility, more ability to tune results based on configurations, and more cost efficiency per linear foot. To properly specify their use, engineers must be more aware of soil densities and wave energies. Too frequently, modular precast technologies are not included in new project design even as alternative solutions. To solve that, coastal engineers must be more familiar with the flexibility and cost benefits of using and specifying modular precast units so their projects, and the project sponsors, get better use of limited funds and longer term positive results; and stakeholders must be more aware of mitigation banking opportunities.

Precast projects designed as semi-artificial oyster reefs are increasingly valuable as habitats and fiscal assets. As the reef's oyster population grows the so does the physical strength and environmental value of the entire reef. Documenting this requires repetitive monitoring of oyster growth and documentation of the status of the reef. Using the associated credits requires that documentation and claims be filed on an ongoing basis. Costs associated with long term monitoring, documentation, and filing are offset by future mitigation credit dollars.The advantages of modular precast structures over rock are clear. Stability in water, easy local stockpiling and installation, low or no maintenance, better sediment accretion and wave attenuation are just some of the high points, making concrete precast a viable alternative for shoreline protection with the added value of habitat creation and substantial offsetting mitigation credit value. The shoreline won't wait. An effective solution is here today.

By: Paul Proffitt, Wayfarer Environmental Technologies

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