April 2, 2013

A novel way to control erosion

A Tangier Island street after Superstorm Sandy in 2012

Historic Tangier Island in the middle of the Chesapeake loses several acres of land every year to erosion. Some islands have already vanished after one too many storm. And now rising sea level and sinking land threaten them.

But one Maryland-based company, Murtech, plans to build 53 experimental buoy systems this year, based on an innovative design tested in the labs of the U.S. Naval Academy to reduce erosion in three locations this year (Virginia's Tangier Island and Maryland's Aberdeen Proving Grounds and Barren Island).

This summer, the largest buoy, 10 feet in diameter is planned in front of the western entrance to Tangier's harbor. We always sail into the harbor this way and it silts in more each visit. NOT good for the bottom of any boat. Even less beneficial to the crab shacks and piers of watermen.

The buoys will have fins on their sides, and are designed to create interference with the waves and reduce the wave energy. Hopefully, the battered shorelines will benefit, as well as the 470 or so residents of Tangier Island--two thirds of the residents of the '30s..

In addition to the experimental buoy system, the federal and state governments are planning to build a 430-foot-long stone jetty beside the harbor at a cost of about $4.1 million. No visible infrastructure there yet.

If you haven't visited Tangier Island, consider it soon. You can take a fun ferry ride from either Onancock, Virginia or Crisfield, Maryland. Mrs. Crockett's restaurant will fortify you for a walk around this unique island.