Innovate Mississippi

Pointe Innovation Magazine Summer 2014

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64 Pointe Innovation Go With the Flow U S I N G N AT U R A L E R O S I O N C O N T R O L S T O P R O T E C T O U R S H O R E L I N E S Jim Beaugez catastrophic event such as a hurricane can wreak havoc on coastal shorelines – reshaping beaches, flooding neighborhoods and even slicing paths through barrier islands that protect the mainland from the storm's full force. But most erosion events are not the results of major disasters, and they occur not only along the Gulf Coast, but throughout a state's beaches, bayous, rivers and lakes. "Erosion naturally occurs, so there's always a process of erosion and deposits," said Niki Pace, senior research counsel with the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Legal Program, located at the University of Mississippi. "Any time you have a big storm event, that's always going to change shorelines. But boat wakes and waves from jet skis are going to cause some scale of erosion." Homeowners and businesses with waterfront property have used a variety of structures to protect against the encroaching water line caused by erosion of the shoreline. Bulkheads and seawalls constructed with wood or concrete are common remedies, and riprap – mounds of rock and other materials piled in defense of wave action – is a typical armoring used on shorelines and streambeds and around bridges and pilings. According to Pace, however, these hard-surface structures that developers and property owners use to protect land from the destructive forces of water-driven erosion can actually make maers worse. Traditional fortifications like bulkheads and seawalls actually cause erosion by reflecting wave energy back onto unprotected shorelines. And as Hurricane Katrina proved, the full force of nature will test any man-made structure. "Aer Katrina, everyone's bulkheads were destroyed," said Pace. "at was a good opportunity to rethink how we handle this. If everybody puts up a wall, you lose your transition between your property and the water. It creates a bathtub effect, and eventually it will erode and water will lap up to your bulkhead. Neighboring properties that do not have bulkheads will erode." e Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Legal Program is working to stem the tide of erosion by developing permiing guidelines for natural, alternative erosion controls, such as grass-based living shorelines that are planted below the water line or offshore oyster shell beds that break waves before they reach the shore. Chris Boyd, associate extension professor of environmental ecology for Mississippi State University and the Mississippi- Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, works with Pace to educate state and federal policymakers and the public on why and how to use these natural alternatives. Together, they have delivered lectures and workshops in coastal Mississippi and Alabama, and published a manual for implementing living shorelines. "Coastal property in the Mississippi Sound is eroding, so depending on where you live, some type of shoreline erosion protection might have to be used," said Boyd. "Using natural A FEATURE Photo: MDA/Tourism Division Photo: MDA/Tourism Division

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