Georgia Gems: Tybee Island Recognized for Coastal Resilience

April 5, 2021

The City of Tybee Island has become a national model community for flood mitigation, recently winning the 2020 Best Restored Beach award. Only six U.S. beaches earn this annual distinction from the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association for innovative solutions to unique problems.

In 2017, Tybee Island undertook a four-year, $18-million effort to restore its coastal resilience following damage from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. Expanding on the US Army Corps of Engineers’ beach nourishment project, the city constructed and restored the dunes. Funding was provided by a One-Georgia Grant from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs in 2018.

The restoration included 1.3 million cubic yards of sand pumped ashore to expand the coastline, including 70,000 cubic yards of sand for building dunes, installing 271,000 plants to preserve the dunes and constructing 12 beach crossovers. The efforts will enable the beach to better absorb the effects of hurricanes, recover faster and adapt to environmental changes, while at the same time enhancing the natural habitat of the island’s sea turtle nesting sites and endangered bird species.

Alan Robertson with AWR Strategic Consulting LLC managed the project for the City of Tybee Island. He said that planning began after Hurricane Sandy damaged the island in 2012, which was a wake-up call for a city that had not seen significant hurricane activity in 30 years. The subsequent preparation was critical, because the city was ready to take advantage of state and federal funding when it became available.

As climate change-related flooding is a growing concern, Tybee participates in conversations at a state and national level to share the city’s success and learn about new innovations.

“Everyone is facing these issues and trying to learn from each other to see what we can do individually and together to improve our coastal resilience,” Robertson said.

Robertson encourages visitors to take a vacation and see the work in person.

“The beach and the dunes have never been in better shape,” he said.

This story originally appeared in the March/April 2021 edition of Georgia’s Cities magazine.

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