Harvey Raises Concern About Beach Erosion

The damage left behind across Southeast Texas by Hurricane Harvey has been well documented, but the storm may have also worsened an ongoing issue along the Texas coastline--beach erosion. The exact amount of erosion along Texas beaches from Harvey hasn't been determined, but scientists are looking at it. On average, the Texas coast loses about 2.3 feet per year due to erosion, but some areas can lose as much as 20 feet in a year, according to researchers.

Hurricanes such as Harvey can exacerbate beach erosion by bringing strong waves and storm surges to the coastline. Jens Figlus, assistant professor of ocean engineering at Texas A&M Galveston, says Harvey could have done much more damage. "For those folks closer to the coastal areas, we were fortunate essentially that it wasn't a massive storm surge and wave event," he tells KTRH.

One possible solution to beach erosion is to replace lost coastline with the sediment that is regularly dredged up from other waterways like the Houston ship channel. Figlus believes that is a viable, but costly option. "To simply dredge the material and dump it somewhere out of the way further offshore, that is much cheaper than actually putting it back onto a beach," he says. "So the local towns would have to come up with that differential cost...but it definitely makes sense."

Another solution which could help prevent coastal erosion before it happens is the long-discussed coastal spine project, or "Ike Dike" as some refer to it. Figlus believes this project could alleviate multiple issues related to storms. "How can we make a coastal spine that helps with our erosion issues, and at the same time helps us cope with storms that have more of a storm surge and wave impact than we saw in Harvey," he says. "We need to come up with solutions that help make Houston and its surrounding areas more resilient to flooding from rain, as well as flooding from storm surges."

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