Coastal Engineering
Natural coastal hazards along the Great Lakes affect municipalities, homeowners and businesses. As the demands of coastal development and investment continue to increase, so do the possibilities for increased loss of valuable property, habitat and life. Sound coastal engineering information on coastal erosion, waves, rip currents, changing water levels, flooding potentials, bluff instability and shoreline best-management practices are all needed. Wisconsin Sea Grant meets that need.


The Life of a Coastal Engineer

Gene Clark, Go-To-Guy
Wisconsin Sea Grant's coastal engineer, Gene Clark, tackles a wide variety of coastal issues and problems. Read more...


Guiding Principles on Coastal Engineering

Guiding Principles on Coastal Engineering
Wisconsin Sea Grant offers nonbiased, science-based technical assistance to address coastal engineering challenges. Learn more about the program's guiding principle. Read more...


Coastal Processes

Waves and Nearshore Currents
Different types of waves and currents mean different things along a shoreline. Learn more, and learn how these waves and currents form. Read more...


Storm Surges, Seiches and Edge Waves
There are temporary rises in water levels that can cause flooding and shore damage. There are two main types: storm surges and seiches (say-chez, or say-shes). A rare third type is an edge wave. Read more...


Climate Change Models
Models about climate change predict adjustments in Great Lakes water levels. Read more...


Great Lakes Hydrologic Model Response To Global Circulation Models
Explanation for the predictions of water level changes that are based on models. Read more...


Great Lakes Storm of 2001 - Lake Superior
Details on a powerful November 2001 storm. Read more...


Coastal Hazards

Coastal Erosion
Coastal erosion is a natural process. The land contributes coarse sediments of sand and gravel to re-supply beaches that have lost material alongshore to other locations, or offshore to lakebed depths beyond the reach of storm waves. The land contributes fine sediments that move offshore to settle in the deep basins. Read more...


Coastal Bluff Failure
Coastal bluff failure is a serious issue on the Great Lakes. The most significant mechanisms: wave erosion, lakebed erosion and rainfall. Read more...


Coastal Flooding
High water level periods on the Great Lakes tend to be more prolonged than such periods on rivers and smaller lakes. Read more...


Lakebed Erosion
Lakebed erosion seems to be a continuous process, even though major storms probably cause a lot of the erosion. Even during low water level years and times of small wave conditions, the abrasion goes on. Significant lakebed erosion occurs from the shoreline out to water depths of roughly 34 feet. Read more...


Lake Levels

Video Archive of 2013 Lake Level Workshop
Wisconsin Sea Grant presented at a community workshop on Great Lakes water levels in Milwaukee. Read more...


Lake Superior
Charts that show the average annual water levels of Lake Superior recorded since 1860. Read more...


Lake Michigan & Lake Huron
Charts that show the average annual water levels of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron recorded since 1860. Read more...


Lake Erie
Charts that show the average annual water levels of Lake Erie recorded since 1860. Read more...


Lake Ontario
Charts that show the average annual water levels of Lake Ontario recorded since 1860. Read more...


Minimum/Maximum Levels
Tables that display the minimum and maximum water levels recorded for each of the Great Lakes. Read more...


Lake Michigan Coastal Bluff Erosion

Lake Michigan Coastal Bluffs Integrated Assessment, 2016-17
With significant input from people who live and work around Lake Michigan's coastal bluff's, a project seeks to formulate policy and management recommendations for the coastal features.  Read more...


Rip Currents

Rip Current Process
Rip currents are generally narrow but can be dangerous to swimmers. There are specific conditions under which they can occur. Read more...


Coastal Construction Setbacks

Construction Setbacks - An Introduction
Construction along coastal land means paying attention to many factors, including setbacks. Read more...


Minimum Setback Distance
Read more...


Videos

Confronting Coastal Erosion and Flooding
Adam Bechle is learning to help coastal residents in Wisconsin confront coastal erosion and flooding. Bechle is the is the new J. Keillor Wisconsin Coastal Management and Wisconsin Sea Grant Fellow. Read more...


Increasing Safety at Sea Caves
The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore has become a world-class destination for sea kayaking, but some of the most popular attractions can also be treacherous. Under certain conditions, the sea caves can quickly change from awe-inspiring to terrifying. A new Sea Grant system improves safety.

UW Sea Grant researchers, with funding from other sources as well, have developed a website that aggregates wave conditions in Lake Superior in and around the Apostle Islands sea caves. Visit seacaveswatch.org.

Read more...


Engineering Students Dive into Field Work
Wisconsin Sea Grant Coastal Engineering Specialist Gene Clark describes slope stability, erosion and other coastal issues as students learn to deploy and operate instruments. Civil and Environmental Engineering Prof. Chin Wu conducted the class, called "Exploration and Investigation of Coastal Processes in the Great Lakes and Inland Lakes." Read more...


Coastal Solutions

Coastal Shore Protection Structures

Explore Great Lakes processes on shorelines through this fact sheet from Sea Grant’s coastal engineering specialist. He then offers thoughts on structures that interact in the best possible ways with those natural processes.




Construction Setbacks
Selection of a setback distance from a coastal bluff or bank is one of the most important decisions a homeowner or builder can make when building a coastal home. Read more...


Shore Protection Structures
Explore a list of past and present guides to designing and building shore protection structures on the Great Lakes and other coastal shores. Read more...


Infiltration Intakes
Great Lakes water infiltration intakes are a vital part of coastal water-supply infrastructure. Low lake levels and biological invasive species such as zebra and quagga mussels have created many problems with their design use capacity. Read more...


Research

Development of Geo-Indicators for Assessment of Coastal Bluff Ecosystem in Lake Michigan for Regional Integrated Bluff Management (IBM)

Chin Wu, UW-Madison, (608) 263-3078, chinwu@engr.wisc.edu

Coastal bluffs along the Great Lakes are a sensitive landscape feature, often containing both vital shoreline habitat at the bluff toe and urbanized development at the crest. Sediments in the coastal bluff environment (CBE) play an important role in ecosystem function. Movements of sediment are constantly altered by natural climate factors and anthropogenic coastal development, making a sediment budget accounting for sources, sinks and pathways of sediment transport critical. In this project we will develop three sets of geo-indicators to parameterize the CBE, quantify coastal processes on a regional sediment budget and characterize the health or function services of the CBE. The resilience of geo-indicators in response to stressors like coastal development and climate change would be examined on three sites of varying urbanization along the Wisconsin coast of Lake Michigan. The geo-indicators would help coastal managers effectively assess the health of the coastal bluff ecosystem for regional integrated bluff management (IBM) along Lake Michigan. (R/RCE-02)




Improving Upon Flash Flooding Risk Assessments and Forecasts for Great Lakes Cities

Paul Roebber, UW-Milwaukee, (414) 229-3950, roebber@uwm.edu

 Great Lakes communities inevitably face heavy rainfall and flash flooding events. Although we have a significant amount of historical and future projections of precipitation data as it relates to flooding throughout the Milwaukee and Chicago regions, we lack an integration of that precipitation-flooding knowledge with critical atmospheric signals, antecedent atmospheric and soil conditions, and land-surface information. This project will develop several operational tools using both types of information that forecasters, emergency management personnel and the broader community can use when either a heavy rainfall event is predicted or as part of long-term planning. The project includes testing and dissemination of the tools. By taking the necessary steps to develop resiliency recommendations and emergency response tools to protect critical infrastructures and dwellings, these major Great Lakes cities will reduce their vulnerability to extreme precipitation, reduce loss to life and property, and increase their overall resilience to climate change. R/RCE-03




Outreach

Freshwater Harbor Corrosion Study Results Outreach
Sea Grant, along with governmental partners and the Wisconsin Commercial Ports Association, is providing education, research and outreach concerning the accelerated freshwater corrosion seen in Lake Superior port, harbor and marina structures. This includes hosting the research and outreach steering committee’s website and production of communications products detailing research and field investigations, along with mitigation strategies.


Beneficial Use of Dredged Material Outreach and Project Assistance
The maritime industry relies on adequate water depth in harbors and connecting channels for navigation. Maintaining that depth where there is natural accumulation of sediments requires periodic dredging. Slightly more than half the dredged sediment is typically disposed of in confined disposal facilities (CDF). Sea Grant and its private-sector and
governmental partners are working to raise awareness about the value of dredged material as a sustainable resource that can be beneficially used and not deposited in a CDF.



Resilience to Coastal Hazards and Climate Change Adaptation for Wisconsin’s Coastal Communities
Sea Grant staff works with coastal communities to inform planners and decision-makers about the current science on climate adaptation. Hart and Clark serve as co-chairs of the Coastal Resilience Working Group of the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts. Hart collaborates with the NOAA Digital Coast Partnership on the Great Lakes Coastal Resilience Planning Guide, greatlakesresilience.org.


Integrated Assessment on Water Level Variability and Coastal Bluffs
A team of investigators representing disciplines including coastal engineering, geology, urban and regional planning, law, policy studies, ecology, landscape architecture and social science led by Sea Grant received a planning grant from the University of Michigan to explore the impact of changing water levels on coastal bluffs in northern Milwaukee County and southern Ozaukee County along Lake Michigan. The team will participate in a full integrated assessment with the desired outcomes of developing a select set of policy alternatives by local governments and adaptive actions by coastal property owners that lead to a measurable increase in the resilience of bluffs to coastal erosion. Funding Source: Graham Sustainability Institute of the University of Michigan.


Ports, Harbors and Marinas Initiative
Wisconsin Sea Grant will continue to assist Great Lakes ports, harbors and marina managers and owners with all aspects of port, harbor and marina infrastructure maintenance and repair, facility management, dredging technology and dredged material disposal. A single non-advocacy source for reliable, up-to-date information to help managers and owners is critical to the operation and maintenance of ports, harbors and marinas. New techniques need to be verified and information disseminated to assist managers with project investigation studies and repairs. Sea Grant will partner with the Great Lakes port, harbor and marina managers, in addition to other regional and national entities, to establish a direct link between managers experiencing operational problems and valuable resources for technical information and engineering assistance.


Related Publications

Deciding About Sediment Remediation: A Step-by-Step Guide to Making the Decisions
This book is for people who make or influence decisions about sediment remediation. It describes a step-by-step sequence of decisions to determine whether, and how, to clean up contaminated sediments, or to let natural recovery occur. Read more...


Living on the Coast: Protecting Investments in Shore Property on the Great Lakes
If you own or plan to buy Great Lakes coastal property, or you are involved in coastal planning or development, this full-color 50-page booklet will help you make informed decisions. Read more...


Coastal Processes Manual
This manual provides step-by-step instructions on how to estimate risk to Great Lakes coastal property from extreme lake levels, storms and erosion. Read more...


Estimating Economic Benefits of Cleaning Up Contaminated Sediments in Great Lakes Areas of Concern
This report describes a two-stage approach to estimating the value the public places on large-scale sediment remediation projects and comparing that value to the estimated costs of the projects. Read more...


More Related Publications
See our publications store for more coastal engineering publications. Read more...


Related Websites

Wisconsin's Water Library
Established in 1964 by the UW Water Resources Institute, Wisconsin's Water Library (formerly known as the Water Resources Library) is unique among UW-Madison's many libraries for its collection of almost 30,000 volumes of water-related information about the Great Lakes and the waters of Wisconsin. The library includes a curriculum collection, dozens of educational videos, a children's collection, and more than 20 journals and 100 newsletters. Read more...

Login