Fit for purpose

Ines Nastali, senior custom publishing editor

I know I repeat myself when I say that a quicker response is necessary to protect coastal areas from increasingly stronger storm conditions. But I say it again. The storms that Europe encountered in February support this argument.

Let’s take the beach on the northern German island of Wangerooge for example. Its beach was decimated by a series of storm surges that removed 80,000 m3 of sand of the 100,000 m3 that previously made up the 1 km-long beach. A 4 m-deep edge is now waiting to be refilled in time for the summer holiday season, on which the island’s businesses and income rely.

The island’s administration already regularly dredges around 55,000 m3 of sand from the eastern end of the island to make up for seasonal damage, however, this source is nearly depleted.

This case is interesting as only in 2018, a large-scale coastal protection upgrade was finished, and the federal administration confidently said that protection from storm surges was at an unprecedented high level.

It goes to show how forceful the storms in 2019 must have been, and how much stronger they were than predicted, for 80% of a supposedly protected beach’s sand to have been washed away. Consequently, a new way to cope with the new normal is needed. When reading about the island’s conundrum, the sand engine sprang to mind: A hook-shaped accumulation of sand pointing inwards towards the coast that gradually, and naturally, moves towards a long stretch of a beach, thereby increasing the land mass – a Dutch invention well known in the dredging spheres not far from Wangerooge.

The island itself is shaped like this, and thus, I would advocate that this Dutch expertise and experience with the sand engine be offered to Wangerooge to give some neighbourly help to a much beloved tourist spot.

Naturally, I am not the only one to call for a push of investment to prevent damage to coastal populations and ecosystems. The result of our poll, asking if this is needed, came to a unified answer, with DPC readers urging for more action – as a first step, the dredging industry itself plays a vital part in this.