Ports, Harbors, & Beaches

Ports, Harbors, & Beaches

Ports, harbors, and beaches encompass a significant segment of the marine coastal environment worldwide and are both economically and recreationally important. Harbors are water bodies that provide either natural or artificial protection to ships from wind, waves, and storms, while ports provide the adjacent infrastructure where ships and other vessels can transfer various types of cargo or people between water and land. Existing harbors are being deepened and ports expanded throughout the world to handle increased ship traffic and new, larger freighters, tankers, and cruise ships. Additionally, new harbors and ports are under construction in developing countries to handle oil and gas, coal, and mineral exports along with the transfer of bulk cargo, large containers of consumables, and other products. Cruise ships and military/coast guard vessels are also significant users of various port facilities. Port and harbor enhancement is concurrent with increased dredging and shoreline construction projects associated with new power plants, desalination facilities, oil and gas plants, and coastal residential development in these areas.

Relative to beaches, there are thousands of miles of nearly continuous sandy beaches along the U.S. coastline, with tens of thousands more miles comprising coastlines around the world. Many of these sandy shorelines are experiencing erosion tied into the interruption of natural longshore sand transport by inlets, channels, and harbors, with sea level rise increasing the potential severity of this problem.

Environmental & Economic Balance

Due to the economic and recreational values of these often overlapping areas, along with increasing human populations along the coastline, conflicts arise in maintaining a balance between the economics of coastal development and preservation of environmental resources. Historically during this development process, mankind has been responsible for significant impacts to ambient water quality and adjacent marine habitats and communities. Direct negative impacts may be caused by dredging associated with the maintenance of existing harbors and shipping channels as well as in new port facilities; construction and remediation of seawalls, bulkheads, and piers; turbidity and decreased water quality due to commercial and recreational shipping and boating traffic; associated port activities; along-shore land reclamation for commercial and residential housing developments; and the placement of sand on beaches for restoration purposes. In nearly all of these instances, including the placement of sand on eroding beaches, increased sedimentation and turbidity associated with the development activities are one of the primary factors negatively affecting natural marine communities such as hardgrounds, coral reefs, seagrass beds, and estuaries.

Since 1970, CSA has provided support to port authorities, local municipalities, counties, state and federal agencies, dredging contractors, shipping companies, and private industry clients in preparing environmental assessment documents and mitigation plans, performing marine habitat mapping and data collection surveys, developing and conducting monitoring programs, and assessing impacts of marine activities. CSA’s scientific and technical staff conduct mitigation activities associated with port and harbor development, including seagrass and coral colony relocation from impact footprints to adjacent locations, in addition to long-term biological monitoring programs associated with beach restoration and nourishment programs.

CSA staff are highly experienced in a wide variety of environmental disciplines: biological, chemical, and physical oceanography; marine ecology; coral reef and seagrass ecology; and marine mammals and endangered species. Because of the wide diversity and experience of in-house personnel, CSA is able to competitively and efficiently meet our clients’ needs while maintaining our internal standards of excellence.

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