Saving the Shores of Seaside

The Scenario:

You are part of a group in a coastal management engineering firm. You are working with the other groups in the firm to help a town called Seaside. Over the past few years, Seaside’s sandy beaches have been eroding. You must develop a plan to help the town manage its erosion problem. Your plan must include modifying the beach in some way to address immediate erosion concerns. Your plan must also include at least one policiy that does not physically alter the shoreline, but instead regulates human behavior.

Each of the major stakeholders (groups of people with an interest in the issue of coastal erosion) in town will vote on your idea. You must balance their competing interests. You must also keep an eye on the amount of money it will cost in order to save Seaside.

The Stakeholders:

Business Owners:
Seaside depends on its beaches to bring tourists who will spend money in Seaside. Business owners are concerned that erosion is keeping tourists away. The business owners want a management plan that will solve the erosion problem as soon as possible and cost as little as possible.

Recreational Users:
Surfers and swimmers in town are concerned about the erosion problem and whether it will get worse as a result of global warming and sea level rise. They want a management plan that looks nice, but does not have to be all-natural, and does not alter the water dynamics too much, so they can keep doing their normal activities like surfing and snorkeling.

An environmental group wants to protect the habitat of an endangered intertidal crab that lives on one area of the beach. They would prefer that hard structures not be built on the beach. They want a management plan that preserves the crab habitat, maintains natural features, and prioritizes the long-term health of the beach.

Property Owners:

There are some houses near the beach. As the beach is eroding, these houses are at risk. The owners who live in these houses want to build a seawall or other hard structure to save their properties and will pay for half of the cost themselves. They want a management plan that will solve the erosion problem immediately.

The Process:

Create a name for your engineering team.

Your team will set up the model of the beach at Seaside. The beach has houses, vegetation and an endangered intertidal crab that needs protecting.

The height and width of your beach will be set before you test it.

You will need to very carefully draw your beach and mark where everything is before you test the beach.

The beach will then be subjected to the ocean's waves. You will need to then draw your beach again and note what happened to the beach.

After your initial test, your engineering team will need to plan an erosion prevention method that fits within the stakeholder's concerns and keeps an eye on the cost.

Your team will once again set up the beach, just as it was before the first test. However, you will add you erosion prevention methods to the beach, and the beach will once again be subjected to the ocean's waves.

You will then draw your beach and note what happened to it after the waves hit it.

At this point, it will be very important to view the results that other teams got from their test. You will need to discuss with other teams what they did and find out what was effective and what was not effective in preventing erosion.

You will then set your beach up again, and make any changes to your plan that you wish to put in place.

The beach will once again be subjected to the ocean's waves, and you will draw the results and note what happened.  

You will need to talk with your team and develop a policy that will change people's behaviors so that they do not contribute to further erosion.

You will then write your final report and be ready to submit it to Seaside where the town government will decide upon the best plan of action.


Some examples of policies might be:

Relocating structures to areas further away from shore (managed retreat)

Buying-back houses that are too close to the shoreline, destroying the houses and relocating the owners

Setting construction set-back limits

Placing signs on dunes to stop people from walking on them

Those are just samples-your engineering team gets to create its own policy. Be as innovative as you can as you work to prevent erosion in Seaside.

Online resources:

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration's toolkit of ideas of how to deal with erosion

Beach stabilization guide

Fighting erosion in Australia-video

Pacifica, California-house on the edge of the sea-video

A King Tide in La Jolla, California-video

Methods that can be used to slow down coastel erosion-video

A chart of coastal erosion techniques-you were given this sheet already

Rip Raps


Groynes, Jetties and Breakwaters

Click the following links to find each STEM team's photos

STEM Squad
The United Stars
Vibrainium STEM
The STEM of the World