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Journal Articles Journal of Coastal Conservation: planning and management Year : 2014

Confronting coastal morphodynamics with counter-erosion engineering: the emblematic case of Wissant Bay, Dover Strait


Wissant Bay is a picturesque and highly frequented French coastal resort comprising beaches, dunes, marshes, and bold capes facing the Dover Strait. Situated at the southern approaches to the North Sea, the 8 km-long bay has, arguably, the most rapidly eroding shoreline in metropolitan France. Retreat has largely affected much of the bay shoreline west of Wissant town, with parts of this sector having lost up to 250 m in the last 50 years, whereas a much smaller sector east of the town is a zone of accretion. Various dune, beach and nearshore morphodynamic studies conducted over the last decade have identified chronic sand bleeding from the western sector and longshore transport to the east, within a framework of what appears to be an ongoing shoreline rotation process within a dominant longshore sediment transport cell between the headland of Cape Gris Nez to the west and the bold chalk cliffs of Cape Blanc Nez to the east. Retreat of the narrowing beach-dune barrier poses a threat in the coming years, as there is a likelihood of it being breached by storms. The seawall protecting Wissant town has also been repeatedly damaged since 2000 due to the chronic sand deficit. These changes involve interactions between a nearshore sand bank, a complex macrotidal beach comprising multiple subtidal to intertidal bars and troughs subject to strong longshore sand transport especially during storms, and aeolian dunes. The nearshore bank acts as a dissipater of incident storm wave energy and as a sand source for the multi-barred beaches and dunes, and has been strongly impacted by past massive aggregate extraction. The bank is, in turn, part of a larger system of mobile banks reworked by storms and tidal currents within the framework of a sand circulation system between the eastern English Channel and the southern North Sea. The aim of this work is to confront knowledge acquired on the morphodynamics of the bay with an engineering plan proposed to counter erosion and reestablish shoreline stability. The plan is based essentially on the creation of an 'equilibrium' beach profile, capable of withstanding storms, comprising an enlarged upper beach berm, and constructed through beach nourishment from a nearshore source located 20 km east of Wissant Bay. The plan has not been implemented because of cost. Even if it were to be implemented, its efficiency seems very doubtful because the beach profile simulations on which it is based neglect the complex multi-barred morphology and the overwhelming dominant longshore transport over bars during storms. The plan is also geared towards resolving a local problem of erosion that is embedded in the larger and rather complex spatiotemporal morphodynamics and sediment transport mechanisms evoked above. Wissant Bay is emblematic of the problems of erosion facing many communes in France, and elsewhere. The fight against shoreline erosion generally starts with the commonly insurmountable
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insu-01100760 , version 1 (08-01-2015)



Mouncef Sedrati, Edward J. Anthony. Confronting coastal morphodynamics with counter-erosion engineering: the emblematic case of Wissant Bay, Dover Strait. Journal of Coastal Conservation: planning and management, 2014, 18 (5), pp.483-494. ⟨10.1007/s11852-013-0300-1⟩. ⟨insu-01100760⟩
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