CLIMATEWIRE | Climate adaptation comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. In Westchester County, New York, it may take the form of bored concrete domes that are more like D-Day bunkers than green infrastructure.
Unusual coastline designs – essentially hemispheres with holes the size of a port – appear in tidal areas along the Atlantic coast to help reduce the devastating effects of waves and storm surges on fragile swamps and coastal habitats.
Westchester County hopes to deploy structures known as “reef balls” as part of the Long Island Sound “living coastline” project in Paradise, New York. Storms and tides in the region’s coastal areas threaten coastal structures, including iconic amusement parks and Edith G. Read Wildlife Sanctuary.
Officials say the city’s nearly 40-foot coastline was washed away after the Sandy superstorm hit the area in October 2012, a problem that has been exacerbated by recent storms such as Hurricane Ida and royal tides rising closer to shore.
Robert Dosher, an environmentalist from Westchester County, said reef balls could be as efficient as dams, permanent breakwaters and other more expensive gray infrastructure for a fraction of the cost.
“It’s like an approach with a belt and suspenders,” Dosher told Westchester County. News magazine. “These are different layers that break up the waves and help stabilize the coastline.”
The deployment of more than three dozen reef balls, each weighing 1.5 to 2 tonnes, is expected next year at a cost of about $ 1.5 million, officials say, and is one of several elements of a lively coastline project in Paradise. According to officials, the balls will be visible above the water at low tide and disappear during high tide.
Reef balls are not new. This concept was launched decades ago to create artificial coral and oyster reefs in warm water. The Florida-based Reef Ball Foundation has deployed balls of various sizes in coastal areas from the Hudson River and Tampa Bay to Malaysia and Indonesia, mostly to restore oysters.
Between 2014 and 2016, researchers from Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut, and the University of Connecticut completed a pilot project to measure the effectiveness of locating more than 300 structures along the blurring coastline in Stratford Point, Connecticut.
It worked. According to James O’Donnell, an oceanographer at UConn and director of the Connecticut Institute for Sustainability and Climate Adaptation, the balls, breaking the waves to shore, halved the wave height and reduced the wave energy by an even greater factor.
The balls last 10 to 15 years before weaning. “They are not like the stones that will stay there forever. Concrete will degrade if they are exposed to air, ”O’Donnell said in an interview.
In colder climates the balls will deteriorate even faster due to frost and ice accumulation.
Professor Sacred Heart and biologist Jennifer Mother, who led the project in Connecticut, said she was drawn to the idea of using reef balloons because they are effective at capturing sediments and allow fish and other marine life to pass through leaky structures.
“If you go out into these areas with a little stormy sea and try to plant salt marshes, they just wash away,” she said. “I wanted to make sure that fish, horseshoe crabs, even turtles, could access the water and the beach without being blocked by a breakwater.”
Reprinted from E&E News courtesy of POLITICO, LLC. Copyright 2022. E&E News provides important news for professionals in the field of energy and the environment.