Different approaches to be applied for tackling seashore erosion

  • 2009-11-26
  • By Linas Jegelevicius

Vaidas, who lives in Palanga and loves to take  a stroll on the beach, is concerned about the dunes' future.

KLAIPEDA - The local authorities’ and Lithuania’s environmental scientists’ fight against mighty Mother Nature over the survival of the Baltic seashore and the magnificent dunes might be compared to the biblical battle between King David and philistine Galijotas. Alas, in the excruciating and uneven fight, humans tend to withdraw, contemplating new approaches in the battle against randomly striking, nasty hurricane-force storms.

The last major storm to hit, in late September, brought gusty 35-40 meters per second (around 80 mph) winds, which were strong enough to devastate the Lithuanian jewel - the Curonian Spit - and a significant beachfront in Palanga, washing away vast areas of the unique dunes despite painstakingly-built twig fortifications that were expected to weaken nature’s impact. Having reviewed the scale of devastation, Klaipeda University’s scientists and Klaipeda County’s officials came to an agreement not to hurry with the restoration of the damaged dunes.

In the immediate hurricane-strength storm’s aftermath, the Ministry of Environment has already allocated 300,000 litas  (86,900 euros) to Klaipeda County. “With this money, we will be able to do just very little, only cosmetic jobs. To be exact, we will try to work on forming steep slopes from the devastated dunes, also to fortify them again by using tree branches and twigs. Besides, we are going to rebuild the wooden stairs, thus preventing unruly beach-goers from climbing through the damaged dunes,”  Head of Klaipeda County Arunas Burksas said to the news portal Delfi.

However, Klaipeda University’s environmental scientists and specialists from the Ministry’s Nature Protection Department are hesitant and skeptical about the traditional means applied for the devastated dunes’ restoration.
“Fortifying the dunes with tree branches and twigs is very tedious work; however, as we see every year, it doesn’t hold up to the task. From my viewpoint, the best means to stop the slopes’ erosion is to bring in sand to replace the washed-away seashore. The world has not yet come up with a smarter solution, when it comes to tackling erosion. To fortify the dunes with branches and twigs doesn’t make sense as well, since every year, after winter is over, the seashore looks like a messy wood shed,” said the Director of the Nature Protection Department, Laimutis Budrys.

Following the scientists’ recommendations, sand will be used only for the restoration of Palanga’s seashore strip, as ‘geo textile,’ the universal construction material, will be used for the Curonian Spit’s seashore restoration and fortification. According to a scientific estimates, for the complete restoration of the beach strip between Palanga bridge and the influx of the Raze rivulet, at least 10,000 cubic meters of sand are needed.

However, it remains unclear if there will be necessary technical and financial resources for the task.
The resort’s outlook might look quite bright next year, as Palanga municipality expects to receive as much as 17 million litas from the EU for the resort’s “sand feeding.” This would allow for the pouring of over 300,000 cubic meters of sand along the beach. That’s the kind of job that is being routinely done every year.

For example, last year Palanga’s beach was augmented with 111,000 cubic meters of sand, however, this could be compared to an insatiable monster’s feeding – it’s never enough. The sand was dug out and brought in from the Baltic sea, 8 kilometers off Juodkrante’s coast. For that purpose a special pipe was stretched from the sea bed to the seashore.
However, among the beach caretakers themselves, so far no unanimous solution has been reached on what is the best way to tackle the dune and the seashore erosion.

“It’s not the case when a human being will win the fight against nature. On a global scale, I would not dare to call the occasional storms, no matter how severe they are, as ‘hurricanes.’ However, regardless of the name, nature’s damage is becoming bigger every year. Honestly speaking, I do not support either replacement-sand nor geo-textile in coping with the problem. We should stop trying to invent new things, but rather stick with our ancestors’ wisdom. In the 19th century, Count Tiskevicius, battling the seashore erosion at the newly built Palanga bridge, nailed in thick poles and put stones among them, thus cordoning off the dunes and the beach. To make it look nicer he even planted cades there. It has served as perfect protection against erosion for over a hundred years, to be exact, until 2000, when after the notorious hurricane Anatoly [swept through], local authorities decided that such seashore fortifications were too obsolete and unaesthetic. I think we should go back to this method as the only reliable one,” Konstantinas Skierius, Director of Palanga Municipal Economy said to The Baltic Times.