Construction News

Wed September 22 2021

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Eco-friendly blocks for US shoreline project

9 Aug Blocks that have been designed to combine erosion protection with the regeneration of marine ecosystems are being used in New Jersey, USA.

The project involves the installation of marine 'mattresses' made up of concrete blocks
The project involves the installation of marine 'mattresses' made up of concrete blocks

Engineering company ECOncrete has teamed up with the Seaview at Shark River Island Homeowners Association, American Littoral Society and Neptune Township to install the infrastructure to stabilise the shoreline at Shark River Island.

ECOncrete's technology has been designed to enable a biodiverse ecosystem of marine life to grow on concrete. Earlier this year, funding was secured for a Spanish trial of the ECOncrete system.

The New Jersey project involves the installation of 42 marine ‘mattresses’ at the site, home to a community of approximately 200 houses. The aim is to stabilise the eroding shoreline, reduce flood risk, protect critical infrastructure and expand the marsh buffer. The full-scale installation follows a two year pilot project that was granted approval by local and federal regulatory authorities and has the support of the property owner Seaview at Shark River Island Homeowners Association, as well as the Neptune township director of engineering and planning.

The concrete mattresses will be coupled with two additional flooding and erosion control structures, a nearshore sill and upland berm to help dissipate wave energy and protect the adjacent marsh area, which will be restored and planted by a volunteer effort organised by the American Littoral Society. 

The contractor for the project, Renova Environmental Services, is responsible for the regrading of the shoreline, placement of the marine mattresses, construction of nearshore sill, regrading of the eroding marsh  and creation of the terrestrial upland berm habitat. Construction began in July and is being completed this month.

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Post-installation monitoring will take place over the course of several years to evaluate the performance of the overall project, with the results informing the future use of nature-based infrastructure measures throughout the region.

ECOncrete technical director of business development Andrew Rella said: “Our aim is to create a hybrid living shoreline to prevent the ongoing erosion between the marsh and marina bulkhead at the northwest corner of the island and to provide an ecological uplift across the site, which will transform the area for community members looking to utilise the shoreline for recreational purposes, specifically for fishing and kayaking.”

Annette Bergstein, president at the Seaview at Shark River Island Homeowner’s Association, said: “We are so pleased that the project will not only stabilise our property but also the Township's existing pumping station located close to the severely eroded shoreline. After exploring the options for protection and restoration of this area, the HOA and the Township were certain that this nature-based approach would be most suitable for the island and protection of our infrastructure.”

Captain Alek Modjeski, habitat restoration program director of the American Littoral Society, said:  “This area has suffered heavy erosion that not only impacts nearby residences but also the local ecology. The Littoral Society believes this hybrid living shoreline will help reduce the waves, boat wakes, and currents that have affected the marsh and make the surrounding area more storm resistant, while also providing habitat for a host of wildlife. As part of the project, we will be planting native grasses in the eroded marsh along with native shrubs and grasses along the newly created upland berm. Our partnership with Stockton University has also enabled us to stake proper marsh elevations, meaning the plants will also have a better chance of establishment before storm season and together, we will monitor the results of this project over the next several years. Furthermore, we are grateful to all the support from Neptune for providing in-kind services, as well as the county who helped to provide the relevant resources, both illustrating an the effectiveness of the public/private partnership.”

Mayor of Neptune Township, Michael Brantley, said: "While calling a waterfront community home has many benefits, it also brings unique challenges, and we have certainly dealt with those here in Neptune Township. However, we are facing these, including flooding, together. This partnership, including with Monmouth County, the Seaview Island Homeowners Association, and the American Littoral Society, is making an incredible impact and will protect the lives and property of our residents, as well keeping our shoreline beautiful, for generations to come.”

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