Long-Term Effects of Seawalls on the Adjacent Nonwalled Beaches of a Historically Receding Shoreline

Date of Award

Summer 1996

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Civil & Environmental Engineering


Civil Engineering

Committee Director

David R. Basco

Committee Member

A. Osman Akan

Committee Member

Donald J. Swift

Call Number for Print

Special Collections LD4331.E54 J56


Great debate has arisen in recent years over the effects seawalls may or may not have on the erosion rate of a historically receding shoreline. A primary obstacle to the formation of definite conclusions about this subject is the lack of long-term physical data, which must be collected prior to and following seawall construction. This thesis presents the results of a study using 15 years of beach profile data to determine how seawalls influence the existing erosional trends of the beach at Sandbridge, Virginia.

Three analysis methods using three time scales (historic, seasonal, and storms) were used to answer three questions about the possible effects seawalls may have on adjacent nonwalled beaches. The results show that, statistically, there is no difference in the erosion rates of walled and nonwalled beaches. Seasonal and storm variability of volume is greater for walled profiles. Seasonal recovery rates for both profile types are similar, however walled beaches appear to recover faster than nonwalled beaches after storms. Some evidence does exist to suggest that erosion of landward volume at nonwalled beaches is increasing due to the presence of nearby walls, however control profiles indicate that an increase in storm activity over the past five years may also be an important factor.


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