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Engineering Options

'Hard' Engineering

'Hard' Engineered coast protection works, such as sea walls, breakwaters and revetments, often conflict with natural processes i.e. stopping sediment transport down drift. They require expensive repairs and regular maintenance in order to continue providing an adequate level of coast protection. Such techniques may not always provide the most sustainable and environmentally acceptable solutions in the long-term.

'Soft' Engineering

'Soft' engineered coast protection works, such as recycling beach sediment usually involves dredging or removing gravel and sand from where it has accreted. The sediment is either stock piled for use at a later date or on beach renourishment schemes where the sediment is placed on beaches which are losing sediment.

However, when rivers, navigation channels and marinas within estuaries are dredged as part of a maintenance or capital dredging scheme the muddy dredged sediments have traditionally been dumped out at sea at designated disposal sites. If this muddy sediment is viewed as a resource rather than as a waste product and with opportunistic development of appropriate techniques it may be possible to reuse this material as well.

Inter-tidal recharge is the term used to describe the raising of inter-tidal areas with imported muddy sediment to a threshold elevation above which vegetation can naturally gain a foothold. Beneficially 'recycling' muddy dredged sediments and retaining the material within the estuarine system may increase the supply of sediment and help to stabilise eroding habitats such as saltmarshes. Such a technique may provide the potential to allow the coast to evolve more naturally, and may be more cost-effective and sustainable in the long-term to implement. However, the application of soft engineering techniques to saltmarsh and mudflats is extremely limited in the UK to date, and experimental studies and field trials are required if these techniques are to be developed.

All engineering options will be investigated and assessed as part of the Coastal Strategy.

Updated: 23 Oct 2014
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