There is no denying the effects of climate change on Barbados’ beaches.
Beach erosion, sea level rise, and rising sea surface temperatures, are all realities which Barbados faces.
And, popular beaches at Holetown, St. James were not spared these ravages of climate change, as pounding waves hammered away at shorelines, limiting beach access and causing beaches to disappear.
Those who live in the area can easily tell the tale of beach erosion, about the lack of access and also disappearing beaches.
But, all that is about to change as the Holetown Waterfront Improvement Project, estimated to cost between $15 and $20 million, is expected to get under way between late August and early September.
The 14-month long project, which spans from Zacios to Heron Bay in St. James, will result in the transformation of the coastline along Holetown, as it seeks to stabilise and enhance beaches in the area, and improve lateral access along that stretch.
Once completed, the project will see a coastline that is more resilient to storm surge waves from hurricane and winter swell events, have more stable beaches with less drastic winter erosion and quicker recovery; and will allow beach users to have more convenient lateral access, particularly during erosion events.
In addition, offshore breakwaters created would provide precious new benthic habitat for corals and fishes, which are critical for sand production.
Project Manager and Coastal Engineer with the Coastal Zone Management Unit (CZMU), Antonio Rowe, said: "The area is undergoing erosion and there are certain sections of the shoreline where it is difficult to traverse during high tide. Even along the Church Point, Folkestone area, where there is provisional access, it is treacherous."
He added that the CZMU intended to increase the beach width on that section of the shoreline to give lateral access along the beach for most states of the tides. In areas such as Folkestone, where beaches cannot be enhanced, the experts have plans on enhancing the existing walkway.
Mr. Rowe explained these walkways would be similar to those already erected between Villas on the Beach and Beachlands.
The Project Manager explained that these objectives would be achieved through the use of coastal engineering structures. These will include four offshore breakwaters, seven groins, 14 000 cubic metres of beach nourishment and between 300 to 400 metres of concrete walkway between Zacios to the south and Heron Bay to the north.
"Beach nourishment is a fancy term for placing sand on the beach which would then be held in place by the coastal structures," Mr. Rowe explained.
He added that without the construction, the erosion trend along those sections of the coastline would continue, especially with sea level rise being an issue. "The beaches would get narrower and narrower. That would then reduce what little lateral access exists right now," the Coastal Engineer pointed out.
In addition, a lack of intervention would also see existing structures going into disrepair, and businesses being adversely affected by a lack of a recreational area for their guests to enjoy.
To execute the much needed work, experts will be using a combination of stone, sand and concrete. There are presently about 11,000 cubic metres of sand at the Flour Mill, and an additional 2, 000 to 3,000 cubic metres at the Crane, all of which was dredged from the Bridgetown Port for previous coastal programmes.
The granite stone being used is expected to be more durable than local limestone, thereby reducing maintenance costs on the project, while the cement would be used to construct the cement walkway.
However, while it is evident that intervention is necessary, Mr. Rowe stressed that there were a number of environmental concerns which experts had to take into consideration, especially for work being carried out in the Folkestone Park and Marine Reserve area.
"We have to look at all our mitigating measures to ensure that while we are working, the impact within the marine area will be minimised," he said.
He added that would involve contractors and consultants on the project paying close attention to areas such as preparing access roads onto the site, ensuring that all the stone being used is properly washed before it is placed in the marine environment, and that all construction material being used, such as cement and concrete, is actually maintained up to the right strength.
"We expect these structures to survive a long time in the harsh marine environment, so again we have to ensure that all of our technical specifications are adhered to. This will be undertaken by our design consultants W.F. Baird and Associates and ourselves who will be supervising the project," Mr. Rowe stressed.
The project is currently undergoing the tendering process, and was advertised in the newspapers. Specifications were outlined in the tender documents to be submitted by eight to 10 potential contractors by July 25, following a pre-bid meeting earlier this month.
Mr. Rowe explained that when the project starts in late August or early September, it would run until the end of November, after which work would cease in preparation for the 2012 winter tourist season.
"We would try to complete discrete parts of the project, and we would shut down for December and remove all the construction equipment from the area. We will then recommence the work in April 2013 and complete it by October or November 2013," he said.
This will also see businesses, particularly hotels and restaurants along the stretch of coastline being accommodated during the tourist season. "On our projects, we usually liaise with the business owners. We try to get a feel for when they have particular events that may coincide with our work and try to work around [that]," the Project Manager pointed out.
He explained that stakeholder consultations were one of the first steps in the process when officials sought to find out if there were any closures in the business, so as to schedule work around that time.
Mr. Rowe noted that in the past, early dinners and in some cases lunch, were accommodated by having contractors stop during those periods, especially for large events, to avoid disrupting patrons.
Further details on the Holetown Waterfront Improvement Project can be found on the CZMU website at http://www.coastal.gov.bb/.