GIANT piles of shingle have been moved along the coast at Shoreham, Lancing and Worthing, to reduce the risk of flooding.
Shoreham Port has been working with the Environment Agency on the month-long operation, which takes place in autumn and spring.
The first shingle transfers started in mid-November, moving shingle from Brighton Marina, and a week later, the operation moved to the west side of the Shoreham harbour entrance.
In early December, shingle transfers began in Lancing and then moved on to Worthing this week.
Tony Parker, director of engineering at Shoreham Port, explained: “Most people believe that the best way to manage the shingle is to move it back westwards at the same rate as the sea moves it eastwards.
“To achieve that, we would have to move about 16,000 cubic metres of shingle westwards from Brighton Marina to the east side of our harbour entrance, and the same amount westwards from our western harbour arm back towards Worthing.
“However, the port only has the power to move the shingle from our short length of coast on the west side of our harbour entrance to the east side.”
The best way to prevent flooding and erosion is to maintain a healthy beach between the land and sea.
The beach is a natural absorber of wave energy and without it, waves would hit the sea walls behind with explosive force.
Shingle on the beach absorbs wave energy by moving when the waves hit, but this means the shingle slowly moves eastwards in a process called littoral drift.
In this area, it all stacks up against the Western Harbour Arm and Brighton Marina, so to keep the beaches working, and the port operational, the port authority has to move the shingle to ensure no length of seafront is left without a beach.
David Robinson, operations manager for the Environment Agency Solent and South Downs, said: “These vital shingle recycling works will help to maintain the flood defences that we completed in 2005, further improving the standard of flood protection to Worthing, Lancing and Shoreham.
“Our £12 million coastal defence scheme is designed to protect over 1,400 residential properties and businesses.
“By working with Shoreham Port Authority and transporting shingle back to Lancing, we are also minimising this risk in the harbour mouth, whilst ensuring that people and property are protected against flood risk from the sea at Lancing.”
For the last two years, shingle has been transferred westwards from Brighton Marina to the harbour entrance, and the port, Environment Agency and councils are working towards a similar scheme for the west side of the entrance.