Coastal Erosion: A Salvors Solution

2020 is a challenging time for our marine environment. We are experiencing ocean acidification, global warming, sea-level rise and now unprecedented coastal erosion. Our coastlines, which once served as critical habitat for nesting sea turtles and burrowing invertebrates, are disappearing leaving many plants and animals displaced without a home. his includes a tight-knit Inupiaq community residing in Shishmaref, Alaska, who watches as their community falls away to the sea. The town, which has existed since time immemorial, used to be covered in sea-ice which dampened the effects of wind and wave energy. With rising temperatures, the sea ice forms later and later leaving the coastline exposed and at the whim of powerful and treacherous winter storms. Resolve Marine founder, Joe Farrell, recognizes this issue and has made it his philanthropic objective to protect our coastlines, and he is doing it with a salvor’s solution.

For the past 15 years, Joe Farrell has been self-funding a coastal erosion research project on Nantucket, Massachusetts, which he hopes to expand to other coastal regions. Nantucket, exposed to the Atlantic Ocean, has experienced significant erosion over the last 30 years. Once luxurious homes now teeter on the edge of cliffs, one bad storm away from falling to the sea. Entire roads have washed away as areas of the island are now covered with water. Joe thinks that he can stop the erosion if he can just find support to back the project.

His approach relies on his years of experience as a salvor. As he puts it “I’ve spent 30 years working in the ocean trying to get sand way from ships that have run aground. This is reverse-engineering that whole idea.” The idea came to him in 2005 after the sea-clammer, ENTERPRISE, went aground on a beach in Nantucket. The ENTERPRISE restored the beach ahead of the grounded vessel. Once the vessel was removed, the beach immediately eroded back to its previous state.

This phenomenon is not unusual in preventing beach erosion. Groynes that run perpendicular to the shoreline have been used for many years to protect sandy areas. They act to prevent littoral transport by alongshore currents. The only issue with this type of shoreline protection is that it usually accompanies accelerated erosion on the lee side of the structure.

Joe’s plan does not involve a permanent structure, nor does it have the usual tradeoffs seen with using groynes. He plans to deploy subsea concrete structures parallel to the beach, to capture sand and dampen the effects of waves and ocean currents. Next, the plan is to sink secondary structures at different angles to the shoreline to direct sand to the coast. The first structure acts as the sink, while the secondary structures as the conduit for sand deposition. 

Although the plan seems extravagant and is ultimately put on hold until further notice, it has not dampened Joe’s spirit and his desire to protect the marine environment. Through Mission Resolve, the HERV Lana Rose and his many other philanthropic initiatives, Joe is making the ocean and the world a better place. Hopefully one day the project will continue in full force and Joe’s technology can be applied in places like Shishmaref, Alaska.