Give us our sandy beaches back15-09-2009
The north coast of Sealand needs to be replenished with sand in order to restore its beaches and protect the coastline.
Along the north coast of Sealand, people are familiar with how
the wind and the waves eat away at beaches and the coastline year
by year. In many places, the sandy beach has disappeared altogether
and coastal cliffs drop directly to the water's edge.
For centuries, people living along the coast have been fighting
the sea, building groynes, breakwaters and cliff protection.
However, their efforts have not stopped the beaches from
disappearing; because, if you protect the coastline in one place,
the sea merely eats up even more of the cliff elsewhere. In some
places, the sea is eating away at the coastal cliff at a rate of
two metres a year.
Nourishing the entire coastline with sand
This situation has led a group of homeowners to propose a common
project: The coast is to be nourished with 250,000m3 of sand each
year for three years and subsequently with 50,000m3 annually. This
should restore the wide sandy beaches and stop the coastal cliffs
Birgit Lund has a holiday home in the seaside town of Vejby
Strand. Parts of the coastal cliff in front of her house
disappeared in a landslide. A public path, named the Vincent path,
disappeared with it. There was eight metres from where Birgit's
stick is pointing to the cliff edge in 2005. The path was one of
the few places along the north coast of Sealand where the public
could walk along the coastal cliff and enjoy the view over the
"The project offers a host of advantages. We will get white, sandy
beaches, enabling us to bathe and walk along the beach again.
Moreover, the water depth will be reduced, which will take away
some of the power of the waves, so that they won't degrade the
beach. And on top of this, beach feeding is a relatively cheap
solution," says Jakob Wandall, who is chairman of a local
homeowners association, Rågeleje-Udsholt Grundejerlag.
Many groynes and other types of 'hard' coastal protection
works have been established along the coast of North Sealand in
order to protect holiday homes near beaches. In many places this
has made the beach disappear. The new beach nourishment project
will remedy this.
More than ten thousand homeowners to help pay the
The cost of the project's first three years will be DKK
40 million and subsequently costs will be around DKK 3 million
annually. The homeowners association proposes that the 17,000
homeowners with land situated within a distance of one kilometre
from the beach are to share these costs. Homeowners closest to the
coast are to pay no more than DKK 1,950 annually for three years
and subsequently no more than DKK 450 annually. Homeowners furthest
away from the coast are to pay no more than DKK 650 annually for
three years and subsequently DKK 150 annually.
So far the project only applies to the municipality of Gribskov,
but Jakob Wandall would like to encourage neighbouring
municipalities to take the initiative to restore their coastlines
via similar beach nourishment projects. However the municipalities
of Halsnæs and Helsingør should in any case be involved in the
project in the maintenance phase, because the sea is continuously
moving sand along the coast from west to east.
"If expenditures for sand are shared according to the length of
coastline, the municipalities of Halsnæs and Helsingør can join the
project for less than DKK one million each annually; a fair price
for replenishing the entire beach stretch in a municipality,
wouldn't you say?" says Jakob Wandall.
The municipality of Gribskov have asked COWI, a leading northern
European consultancy within engineering, environmental science and
economics, to make a sketch project for beach nourishment along the
municipality's shoreline. The sketch project contains
two proposals for the municipality's technical committee to
consider. The municipality has not taken a decision on the
homeowners' financing proposal. If the beach nourishment project is
adopted, the municipality will have to apply for permission from
the Danish Coastal Authority, who are very enthusiastic about the
"This is exactly the kind of initiative that North Sealand needs,
it's ambitious but realistic. For many years, houses in North
Sealand have been secured using breakwaters to stop the erosion of
the coastal cliff and by using other forms of hard coastal
protection. This has stopped the recession of the cliff in many
places, but the beaches have disappeared and with them the
recreational value. The time is therefore ripe for recreating the
sandy beaches and their recreational value through beach
nourishment. The sand added in a beach nourishment project will
reduce the water depth at the cliff base protection works, groynes
and breakwaters This will ensure the stability of the hard
coastal protection works in the years to come," says Per Sørensen,
the Danish Coastal Authority.
The sea removes 30,000-60,000m3 of sand and stone each year from
the North Sealand coast. A majority of the material ends up on
submarine sandbanks east of Helsingør, from where it can be
retrieved and returned to the coast.
Sea levels have risen globally by 10-20cm over the past hundred
years. The increase at Zealand's north coast, however, has only
been a few centimetres, because here the land is still rising from
after the last ice age. However, in the future, a rising sea level
can be expected here too, and with it increased erosion. With
continued relatively high levels of carbon emissions (the A2
scenario), the Danish Coastal Authority expects the coast to erode
between 1.5m and 3m up to 2050. This is how much further back the
coastline will recede due to climate change, if no coastal
protection measures are taken.
"But if we implement the beach nourishment project, the coast will
be protected against further degradation the next many years,"
estimates coastal morphologist Christian Helledie from COWI, who
helped prepare the sketch project.
Per Sørensen adds, "Experience from this project will, along with
a similar project in Northern Funen, provide us with valuable
experience on using beach nourishment as coastal protection along
Denmark's coastline. Experience which will be valuable when
adapting the coastline to future climate change."