Seawalls Provide Essential Beach Protection and Can Be Beautiful, Too
Seawalls are a common sight on riverbanks and beaches around the world, performing the important duty of preventing shoreline erosion as a result of wakes, waves, and weather. A seawall is usually acknowledged as playing an important role in beach protection, both by helping protect waterside structures from being devastated or swept away by floodwaters and storms, and by combating the slow but constant forces of erosion.
That’s why it’s so surprising that people would argue against seawall construction that would protect their property. Yet that’s exactly what some coastal towns did—and can you guess the reason? That’s right—they said the seawall would be ugly, among other arguments.
The fact that this argument was actually put forward by wealthy coastal towns in New Jersey shortly after Hurricane Sandy swept through the region is hard to believe, but it’s true. So, to push back against this idea, let’s review the arguments against it—namely, that seawalls are essential for beach protection, and that seawalls can be made to be aesthetically pleasing as well as functional.
BEACH PROTECTION COMES FIRST
Seawall opponents argued against seawalls’ ugliness in the face of having recently seen Hurricane Sandy tear through their state, demolishing numerous homes and causing around $40 billion in total damage. You would think that these residents would have been more concerned with keeping their multimillion-dollar mansions from being levelled than with preventing an “ugly” seawall from being built, but it seems that isn’t the case.
The reality is that no matter what aesthetic benefit you receive from the absence of a seawall, the beach protection that a seawall provides far outweighs it. A seawall braces the shoreline against the crashing waves and rushing floodwaters of storms as great as Sandy, diverting that energy away from the coast and your property.
On top of that, the beach protection that a seawall provides will do more for making the shore look good than removing the seawall would. When there’s no seawall, a big storm can wash away sand, plant life, and more, leaving the beach barren. For example, one expert testified in the arguments that in Mantoloking, a wealthy New Jersey town arguing against the extension of a seawall, Hurricane Irene had eliminated 80% of the beaches’ dunes. The absence of these dunes was part of why Mantoloking was hit especially hard by Sandy, since the dunes weren’t there to absorb impact and play their own part in beach protection.
If they’d had a seawall, the beach protection it would provide may have been enough to save the sand dunes—and the homes further inland.
SEAWALLS CAN BE NICE ON THE EYES
We understand the image that some people may have of seawalls—drab, grey, unnatural-looking walls of dirty stone or steel. However, it doesn’t always have to be this way. If you’re truly that concerned about appearance, there are more appealing types of seawalls you can choose from.
In Vancouver, a seawall project called Metamorphous is pushing the boundaries of municipal seawall design, combining boulders with angled steel walls. However, this is only the most extreme example—there are plenty of more readily available designs that strike a balance between form and function.
Here at Seawall Doctor’s we take the build, protection and appearance into account when we structure our seawalls, so let this concern be no more!