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Background to the scheme
The Exe Estuary Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Strategy identified that the narrow part (or neck) of Dawlish Warren was at risk of being broken through (breached) as a result of sea level rise and storms. If this happened, it would increase the risk of flooding to the railway line and estuary communities such as Starcross, Lympstone and Exmouth.
The strategy suggested that a range of works were needed at Dawlish Warren to allow the sand spit to continue to act as a barrier to storm waves. It would also improve the quality of the beach and allow the sand dunes to recover.
The beach management scheme
The Environment Agency and Teignbridge District Council worked together on the £12million scheme to reduce the risk of flooding to nearly 2,900 properties around the River Exe and it was completed ahead of schedule in October 2017.
Construction of the main scheme started in January 2017 and took around 9 months to complete. Work included in the scheme ranged from installing a new ‘sandbag’ defence under the dunes at the narrowest point of the Warren, removing gabions, replacing and modifying timber groynes and near-shore dredging operations to recharge the amenity beach.
The work improved the quality of Dawlish Warren beach and the economic benefit of the Warren continuing to shelter communities and the main railway line from storms is estimated at £158million.
The dredging and beach recharge operation was completed ahead of schedule in July 2017, pumping over 250,000 cubic metres of sand onto the beach.
Work on the new revetment between groynes 2 and 3 was completed and the dunes reinstated in July ahead of the 2017 school summer holidays. This structure works in conjunction with the flood wall previously installed across the Warren to prevent a flood route to Dawlish Warren village.
The 460 metre long GeoTube defence buried in the dunes at the ‘neck’, the narrowest point of the Warren, was completed in August 2017. Giant bags were pumped full of sand to create compacted sand bags up to 2.85 metres high. The bags have been buried in the back face of the dune, and are designed to remain buried even under storm conditions. During storms this defence will reduce the impact of waves entering the Exe Estuary and damaging important infrastructure and property.
Chestnut pale fencing has been installed over the reinstated dunes to help the dunes and vegetation to re-establish.
The film Living with a changing coast shows the work carried out at Dawlish Warren and explains why the beach management scheme was needed.
Dawlish Warren beach management scheme: what next?
Since completion visitors will have seen the recharged beach change shape following recent spring tides and storms. Beach and sand dune movement is expected and there will be further change throughout the year and into the longer term.
The improved timber groyne field will maintain beach levels better than in the past, but lowering of beach levels is expected in the future as very little sand comes back naturally.
In the longer term, beyond 10 years, the site is expected to change, with the beach lowering and the dunes rolling back. It is also likely there will then be flooding behind the dunes at high tide. Further beach management works may be required at the site to manage future flood risk and to mitigate the environmental impact of the current scheme. This will be closely monitored and there will be communication with the local and wider Exe Estuary community prior to any further changes on site.
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