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Environmental impact of seawalls discussed by panel of experts

December 16, 2013

The panel, left to right: Robert Thieler, Ph.D., U.S. Geological Survey - Coastal and Marine Geology Program; Richard St. Jean, P.E., president, St. Jean Engineering; Robert Fairbanks, P.E., president, Fairbanks Engineering Corp.; Susan Farady, J.D., director, Marine Affairs Institute and RI Sea Grant Legal Program and Grover Fugate, Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council.

NARRAGANSETT — On Monday evening, the Shoreline Change Special Area Management Plan (Beach SAMP) convened a panel of experts at the Coastal Institute to explain the unintended impacts of installing hardened shoreline structures like seawalls.

“This is a complex issue, it’s emotionally laden, it’s very controversial at times. As coastal managers it would be very easy for us to essentially walk away from this issue and allow everyone to have seawalls but that would be the irresponsible thing to do,” said Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) Executive Director Grover Fugate in introductory remarks.

“You’re going to find that they’re not the panacea that everyone thinks they should be – they’re very costly, and not necessarily a long term solution,” he said.

The four experts on the panel had been chosen for their areas of expertise regarding structural interventions in coastal erosion: a geologist, two engineers, and an environmental lawyer.

First to speak was Robert Thieler, Ph.D., U.S. Geological Survey, Coastal and Marine Geology Program, who began by confirming that sea levels are predicted to rise about one meter by the end of this century. As the seas rise, he said the coastlines will be over-washed and eroded.

Southern Rhode Island Newspapers
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