Are passing ships eroding Tybee Island’s beaches?

Are ships eroding Tybee Island's beaches?
Are ships eroding Tybee Island's beaches?(WRDW)
Published: Mar. 9, 2021 at 11:14 AM EST
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TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. (WTOC) - With big ships heading into the Savannah ports, and that only expected to continue, Tybee Island is launching a study to measure the impact they have on things like increasing erosion rates.

In the next couple of weeks, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will deploy sensors at North Beach for the ship wake study.

In a partnership, the city of Tybee is working to get data to better understand how ship-induced waves affect the north end of the island.

“It’s all a way of gathering information to be able to say, ‘yes we know the beach erodes, but do you know how much, why and where? So that when you go to replenish or repair the dunes you’re better able to effect that change,” said Alan Robertson, Project Manager, the city of Tybee’s Beach and Dune Restoration Initiatives.

Robertson says more frequently over the years, big ships have caused tsunami-like wakes which is a safety hazard for beachgoers and could have an influence on increased erosion.

“When the wakes come in they’re very dangerous. They have swept families’ back and wrecked chairs, and the like, so it’s of concern.”

The ship wake study, Robertson says, is being monitored by several organizations. One being, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who will capture information, through censors in the ocean, on all of the ships that come in and out.

“They will measure the tide in and out, how high, the wind, direction, velocity. Everything.”

Robertson says the beach is the first line of defense for properties and infrastructure during a storm. The effects of the ship-induced waves could impact this greatly and they want to verify their impact before more and more come through.

“There’s no doubt that the number of ships coming through the Savannah channel and the size of the ships are just going to increase.”

Robertson says the study will take about four months to complete. He says once the data is collected it’ll help them determine the next steps toward mitigating ship wake impact.

Robertson says the study is funded by both the city and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The city’s half is funded by a grant.

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