In an inexpensive demonstration of what a little gravel can do, scientists at Hatfield Marine Science Center (HMSC) have launched an experiment, of sorts, to see whether “light armoring” of the beaches along and eastward of HMSC will stop their recent rapid erosion. As larger NOAA ships navigate Yaquina Bay and more and bigger commercial fishing vessels ply the waters upstream to Riverbend and Toledo shipyards for repairs and overhauls, the wakes they generate can cause accelerated loss of sandy beaches along the shore. Such erosion has encroached on the “Yaquina Bay Estuary Trail” that originates at HSMC and winds around to the east and south east. The trail is a favorite for many hikers and wildlife observers who would like to see it eventually connected to a wider trail system farther up the bay, up the hill to the college and through other canyon and bay vistas.
HSMC scientists say the spreading of larger gravels will enable the beaches to survive continuous wake waves by absorbing the their energy. They key is to “absorb” the energy rather than deflecting the waves in another direction causing erosion elsewhere.
The experiment involves armoring some beaches, while leaving others untouched. The experiment is expected to take a number of months. The Oregon National Guard provide labor and equipment.