City of Tybee Island shares how giant ships affect the shore following case study

Published: Jan. 30, 2023 at 2:51 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 30, 2023 at 6:45 PM EST
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TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. (WTOC) - As larger ships call on the Georgia Ports, our beachfront areas see more effects from them.

The city of Tybee Island and the Army Corps of Engineers have teamed up over the past few years to study how these giant ships affect the shore.

It’s fascinating because the sensors collected so much detailed data like wave height, wind direction and speed. What they found, after collecting data for the last few months, was that the size and speed of the ships are the two main factors that cause the tsunami-like waves and erosion out here.

Reporter: “Were you guys surprised by these findings at all?

“No and I don’t think anyone was surprised. It’s what we expected,” Shawn Gillen said.

City Manager Shawn Gillen says the large ships that dock at the Georgia Ports are only going to get bigger and traffic is only going to increase. Of course, he says, this is great for the economy, but they need to find a solution to keep the island’s north end safe. Any time people are swimming in this area and a ship goes by it can be a public safety hazard.

“We send lifeguards, we send code enforcement, we send firefighters out there when we do see ships coming and going or if we see people camping out in that area, you know, with all of their beach gear we tell them to move 100 yards one direction or the other to get them out of the danger zone.”

But Gillen says caution signs and patrols are only short-term solutions. He says closing that part of the beach isn’t what they want to see happen, so the Corps of Engineers offered up some possible solutions.

“There’s a jetty out there in the channel that’s, you know, over 100 years old and it could be built on and extended. That’s one option. Break waters closure to shore is another option. Shifting the channel around as they re-dredge could be an option. All of these options are expensive.”

Gillen says over the next year or so they will be working with the Corps of Engineers to pick a solution that will work best and then look to their state and federal partners for funding.

“There’s some proven concepts out there it’s just what’s the right one here on Tybee.”

Gillen says the sensors have been removed after they collected millions of points of data and that they’re hopeful to use all of that info to make the right decision on what to do.