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Coastal De-Engineering

Bainbridge Trust Article

Very interesting piece that has principles (relatively) easily applied to damaged New England estuaries.  Growing up in a town where the vast majority of estuaries are in a state of near complete degradation, I wonder often if removing high energy features such as groins and seawalls reverse damage done of the course of the last 50-100 years.  Late 19th or early 20th century photos of my parents home and yard that we found in the walls during a renovation show a markedly different river bank and harbor.  The shipyards across the way had wood bulkheads similar today, but the seawall that I grew up fishing and diving off of was no where to be seen.  Instead, the yard gradually transitioned from grass to high marsh to wetlands.  This must have been the same for the rest of the shoreline as well.  It cannot be coincidence that marsh has been in a long decline.  What would be the cost of returning the shoreline to its near original state?  Could a coalition, like a land trust, help offset the cost of restoring the area, providing some kind of benefit to the landowner such as a tax break or easement?  Even more interesting are the potential benefits to the marsh itself and protection from erosion.  Though the walls were most certainly installed to help combat erosion at some point or to stabilize the shoreline as people became more concerned with defined property lines, they instead have the effect of creating a higher energy shoreline which results in undermining of the walls and destructing of native habitats.  Perhaps articles like this and other success stories could help more people recognize the folly of the vast majority of coastal engineering projects.  Shorelines change, that is a fact.  You can delay the change with money and extreme effort, but eventually nature will prevail.  The continuing evolution of shorelines and landforms is something we should instead learn to live with.  As my teacher always said, “The only thing permanent is change.”


About Doug

"Our ignorance is not so vast as our failure to use what we know." - Dr. M. King Hubbert


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