Jefferson County gets help opening washed-out highway

October 29, 2002
| By: Aubrey Bloom

COLLEGE STATION- For one Texas A&M University professor, beach erosion is a line in the sand. Dr. Billy Edge, head of the Dwight Look College of Engineering coastal and ocean engineering division of the Department of Civil Engineering, is assisting Jefferson County as officials attempt to reopen an area of Highway 87. The road has been closed for 13 years since Tropical Storm Chantal and Hurricane Jerry hit the coast in 1989, leaving the road eroded and impassable. Because of the closure, the residents currently have only one route out of the area. Jefferson County residents have said the highway needs to be repaired to increase safety, mobility, recreational access, tourism and business. In a Texas Engineering Experiment Station (TEES) project, Edge is examining the effects of erosion along the 17-mile stretch of road northeast of Highway 124. "If we can help identify the causes of the erosion and potential solutions, it could help preserve the lifeline represented by the roadway," Edge said. Edge and other scientists used a Global Positioning System (GPS) to survey the ground from the coast to 550 yards offshore to create a three-dimensional survey of the land. They used this information to predict erosion and the rise in water level from storm surges during hurricanes and other extreme weather events. The researchers determined there is not enough sand on the beach to absorb wave energy and prevent erosion. The sand shortage is the result of natural settling of the sediment, manmade jetties that disrupt sand transport, dams upriver that reduce the supply of sediment to the coast and construction that uses sand to elevate low-lying sites. Edge and other researchers recommend replacing lost sand along the beach, though the method used will depend on cost and availability of replacement sand. According to Edge, without a long-term solution, the beach will continue receding into the marsh 400 meters every 100 years. Edge said he would like to study the area following a significant storm to gather more information. The team working with Edge included Robert G. Dean from the University of Florida; Bill Curtiss from the USACE Coastal & Hydraulics Laboratory in Vicksburg, Miss.; Karyn Erickson from Applied Technology and Management; and Gregory Stone from Louisiana State University. NR 1082, 9/3/02

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