Last week we welcomed guest speaker Professor Ken Pye to Southampton for a talk about various successful (and unsuccessful) beach and dune nourishment projects throughout Europe and around the coast of the UK. As an ex-Professor at the Universities of London and Reading as well as the owner of an established consultancy firm (Kenneth Pye Associates Ltd.), Prof Pye was able to provide us with a unique viewpoint on projects that are currently underway, using these to analyse potential projects and their likely successes in years to come.
A major focus of this lecture was the Delfland Zandmotor, a mega-nourishment project on the coast of South-Holland that involved the placement of over 20 million cubic metres of sand, allowing this to slowly move along the coast with the motion of waves and currents. This scheme is ongoing and aims to improve the area in terms of dune development, biodiversity and recreation, not to mention providing a better understanding of coastal morphology and expanding the Dutch role in providing projects like this with sources of sand.
Prof Pye was able to provide us with an evaluation of the relative success of the Zandmotor, commenting on the sand borrowed from further off the Dutch coast turning out to be a better source of fossils and shells than expected. Ken also explained some of the teething issues experienced, including the use (or lack of use) of the lagoon which had been designated for activities such as windsurfing, unfortunately only returning a single windsurfer on Ken’s recent visit.
This discussion was then applied to issues closer to home by looking at the potential for similar projects to be employed around vulnerable areas of UK coastline. Of the examples studied, North Norfolk is facing particular vulnerability to coastal retreat, providing an excellent candidate for a mega-nourishment project. Despite being an expensive option (with the costs likely exceeding £100 million), the coast at Bacton and its natural gas terminal could benefit from protection of this nature, preventing the need for relocation of expensive pipelines and associated infrastructure.
Ken finished off by looking at how the study of natural processes and the utilisation of waste material from dredging in other areas could help protect our coasts for a lower price and potentially with more consistent and predictable results. This was a particularly relevant point as the incredibly high price associated with beach nourishment (and a lack of funding), is leading to many long-term projects having to cut down the quantities of sediment being placed.
Ken’s visit was an excellent opportunity to see the scope and transferability of the skills obtained as a coastal engineer, providing us all with a sense of what future employment or research could hold for us.