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Saving The Beach
August 2009

A team of mechanical engineering students, as part of the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Senior Design Expo, chose an artificial reef project for Virginia Beach to devise a more efficient and economical method for reducing ongoing shoreline erosion.

Artificial reefs are used around the world to break waves before they reach the coastline, effectively reducing erosion and thereby creating more sustainable beaches. The existing approach to mitigating beach erosion at Virginia Beach requires pumping sand from the ocean to the shoreline, effectively extending the shore. Current plans call for pumping 1 million cubic yards of sand, every three to four years, for the next 45 years, requiring an additional budget of approximately $100 million. The team’s reef design will provide a decrease in erosion, thereby increasing the time intervals between these required sand pumpings, or hopefully, eliminate the pumping process completely. The main elements of the team’s design are the shape and material for the reef. The general reef structure would be constructed using 4000-psi concrete molds made in 30 feet long sections to facilitate construction. The reef’s shape would resemble a mound shaped ramp where the top will be rounded and the tail will taper off towards the ocean. According to the team’s force and weight calculations, the reef should be placed in approximately 20 feet of water and be approximately 10 feet in height. According to the design team, this approach will be effective and less expensive than the existing methods. Led by faculty advisor, Dr. Ramana Pidaparti, the design team included Justin Horan, Casey Inzaina, Michael Reppert, Christopher Riccobono, and Justin Simunek.

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