Beach sand ‘band aid’

A $3.25 million initiative to counter coastal erosion at Port Beach has been dubbed a “band aid solution” by a design expert. 

The McGowan government grant to the City of Fremantle will see the fast-eroding beach topped up with shipments of extra sand from a nearby apartment development. It will also fund the removal of a remnant seawall.

Part of a $6.76 million package targeting 46 coastal erosion hotspots, the initiative hopes to provide ‘‘up to 10 years of protection” at Port.  

But Bill Grace from the Australian Urban Design Research Centre warns we need to think bigger.

“There’s no problem with interim solutions – but we need to remember that they are just that – interim, not long term,” Prof Grace said. 

“There’s no guarantee that sand nourishment will work for 10 years – what if there’s a huge storm? And even if it does, what about in a decade’s time? You can’t just add sand forever.” 

The WA government’s 2019 report into coastal erosion suggests “managed retreat” is inevitable in some hotspots, but stresses that protection is a viable strategy in the short term. 

“During the medium term (next 20 years), options and planning for the long term (next 50 years) will continue to take place,” said Steve Jenkins, the executive director of the WA transport department’s maritime division.

Prof Grace argues this timeframe needs to be brought forward. 

“Politically, it’s unpalatable to talk about retreat. But if government don’t accept this reality, they’re inviting trouble,” says Prof Grace.

Realities

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the global average sea level is predicted to rise up to one metre by the end of the century.

Prof Grace and his colleague Colleen Thompson have released a report that starkly lays out the realities of the crisis. It is titled: “All roads lead to retreat: adapting to sea level rise using a trigger-based pathway”.

In the study, they argue that governments need to expand the coastal foreshore to prepare for inevitable sea-rise. 

“This means buying up coastal assets, in the same way that government does when it needs to build a road,” Prof Grace said.

“Retreat is inevitable – the only question is how prepared we will be for it. When it comes to coastal erosion, we ain’t seen nothing yet.”

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