Implementing a Resilient Structure to Protect Coastal and Historic Resources at Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson

Phillip Todd, Project Development Coordinator, Atlantic Reefmaker

The shoreline at the State of North Carolina’s (State) historic site, Brunswick Town/ Fort Anderson (BTFA), was in need of protection from constant tide forces and dynamic wave action. Colonial-era wharves are being destroyed, precious artifacts from these buried colonial-era wharves are being washed into the Cape Fear River, and valuable marsh platforms were being eroded.

The Reefmaker (RM) technology was identified as a potential solution for the shoreline erosion after initial conversations with the Corps of Engineers about installing a traditional rock breakwater structure (TRBS). Reasons for selecting the RM technology included the horizontal challenges of installing wave protection at ‘natural’ wharfs (deep drop offs into the Cape Fear River without adequate horizontal space for a TRBS), maintenance of a TRBS, and a solution which is adaptable for sea level rise. The consultant for the state of NC had to develop calculations to support the structure being able to withstand vessel generated wake impacts and to dissipate wave energy.

The project has been accomplished in phases due to funding challenges. To date, there has been 1,671 feet of shoreline stabilized at BTFA. Phase 3 was completed in 2021, and this included 1,211 feet shoreline, including two historic wharfs. Grants have been a primary source of funding, including the National Fish and Wildlife Federation.

The RM structure has performed well at the site, including several days of sustained high tide storm surges associated with Hurricane Florence in 2018. In fact, when the state advertised for Phase 3 at BTFA in November 2019, they noted in the project advertisement that “(t)he wave attenuation devices have had remarkable impact on stabilizing the shoreline and protecting the site.”

The project was included in the Corps of Engineer’s Engineering With Nature® (EWN®): An Atlas – Volume 2. To be included in An Atlas, Volume 2 has to employ the following the four EWN® bprinciples

  1. Using science and engineering to produce operational efficiencies.
  2. Using natural processes to maximum benefit.
  3. Increasing the value provided by the project to include social, environmental, and economic benefits.
  4. Using collaborative processes to organize and focus interests, stakeholders, and partners.

In August 2021, the project was also selected for the ‘Best Restored Shore’ award by American Shore and Beach Preservation Association.


Author Bio

Phillip Todd is the Project Development Coordinator for Atlantic Reefmaker. He has a BS in Biology and a Master of Public Administration. His broad knowledge base of environmental science, engineering concepts, and policy has allowed him to assist numerous clients with designing, permitting, and constructing a diverse number of projects over the past 28 years. With Atlantic Reefmaker, he utilizes his background of science and policy to educate coastal interest groups about the technology and product benefits, and he is involved from a project’s initial concept development through construction and use analysis.