In the past, protecting coastal shorelines often meant structural projects like seawalls, groins, rip-rap, and levees. As understanding of natural shoreline function improves, there is a growing acceptance that structural solutions frequently cause more problems than they solve, and they are often not allowed under the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act. Structural protective measures often:
- Are expensive.
- Are not permissible under local and state regulations.
- Cause erosion to beaches and dunes, leading to a loss of recreational and tourism resources and diminished storm damage protection.
- Aren’t permanent, in fact require costly maintenance to ensure that they continue to provide protection.
- Divert stormwater and waves onto other properties.
- Adversely affect other properties by starving beaches of needed sediment sources.
- Create a false sense of security.
- Disturb the land and disrupt natural water flows.
Structural protection should only be considered as a last resort, knowing that it will be an ongoing expense and may increase overall damage to land, buildings, and other structures within the natural system. Whenever structural protection is pursued, hybrid technology (such as combinations of low-profile rock, cobble berms, and vegetative planting, or combinations of marsh plantings and coconut fiber rolls) should be considered as a means of reducing the negative impacts of the structure.