35 precast beach prisms recently made their New Jersey debut. Manufactured from precast concrete, the prisms are constructed with cut-through holes that allow the ocean to flow naturally without removing sand from beach.
The prisms protect homes, prevent erosion, and reduce impacts from natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy. Installed along the Jersey Shore community’s shoreline and made by Smith-Midland Corporation, the prisms are the first to be used in a state that was hit hard by the 2012 superstorm.
“Ocean Gate is a progressive community,” says Smith-Midland’s National Sales Manager, Jay McKenna. “We’ve been discussing this project with the municipality for three years and are very pleased that they decided to test out this innovative solution to an ongoing and very serious problem.”
Shaped like highway barriers, the beach prisms are made with a built-in parabolic curve that scatters waves away as spray instead of allowing them to crash up onto the vulnerable shoreline. Weighing roughly 10,000 pounds each, the prisms are more economical and durable than other shore preservation methods.
The prisms were installed into Toms River roughly 50 feet away from the beach. According to McKenna, the structures not only shield the beach from the waves but they also help build up sand reserves over time. “Because the wave energy dissipates when it crashes against the beach prism,” says McKenna, “we’re already starting to see sand accumulate on the beach – where it belongs.”
The timing of the prism installation couldn’t be better for Ocean Gate, which just replaced the boardwalk it lost to Superstorm Sandy’s violent forces. “We’ve been losing beach year after year with the Nor’easters we get,” said Ocean Gate’s Mayor Paul J. Kennedy in a recent news article. “So we came up with an idea that hopefully will work.”
McKenna says the project garnered a lot of attention from Ocean Gate residents and business owners. “There was a crowd out there every day, watching the installation and curious about the impact of the prisms,” he explains. “In the end, our Christmas present to them was a finished project and peace of mind that their shoreline is protected.”
The evening of September 1, 2006 was one that left an indelible impression on the minds of Bob and Chris White. That day Tropical Storm Ernesto roared up the Chesapeake and nearly cut their bay front property located at 270 Ingram Bay in Heathsville, Virginia in half. “I can’t believe how powerful the water was,” said Mr. White, “Our home office was knocked off its foundation, the pool was full of mud and debris, and the water had risen over our tennis court and was threatening the house.” Subsequent storms have continued to wreak havoc and do additional damage.
The Whites have tried several solutions to solve their problems: bulkheads; stone revetments and five wooden groins. None of these options did much to quell the ongoing erosion. Over four years ago the Whites came across a promising solution after many hours of searching the internet; Beach Prisms. Mr. White was drawn to the shape of its parabolic curve, a structure he was familiar with from his years of working with blast technology and hydrodynamics. He knew the design would have a good chance of deflecting the destructive forces of wave action.
Several years of working through the permitting process led the White’s and Smith-Midland to a final approval meeting in front of the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VRMC), on the morning of August 23, 2011 in Newport News. John Klein, a consulting coastal engineer working with SMC, presented statistical data to the VMRC representing 20 years of Beach Prism installations and testing. The board voted 11-0 in favor of the permit.
The installation at the Whites began early in the morning of Saturday; October 1st. Tractor trailers traveling from the SMC plant transferred the Beach Prisms in five loads to a waiting barge. Omega Protein in Reedville, VA provided free use of their dock facilities. The full installation consisted of 22 pieces of Beach Prism (4’x4’x10’) with 6 inch spacing for a total of approximately 230 feet of protection. Each piece of Beach Prism was placed parallel to the beach in approximately 1 foot of water at low tide. Installation was completed by Sunday afternoon the 2nd. The Whites hope that this will finally give them some relief from storm damage and either slows the rate of erosion, stop erosion or reverse the erosion by replenishing sand in front of and behind the Prisms.
Michigan Department of Natural Resources employees were busy installing new barriers along a The installation of the Beach Prisms at Little Girl’s Point near the mouth of Oman’s Creek in Ironwood Township is the first use of the technology in Michigan, according to Bill Doan, district supervisor with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Doan explained the allowance of water to flow through the structures was a marked difference from the seawalls or rip-rap that is normally installed to combat there shoreline erosion issues.
The DNR has undertaken eight studies of this section of lakeshore and we had been unable to come up with a viable solution to the erosion problem until the decision to install Beach Prisms, Doan said, expressing confidence the new technology would solve the problem. “I’m pretty confident they are going to do what we think they are going to do.”