MELBOURNE, FLA. — Gary Zarillo, Florida Tech professor of oceanography, has received first-year funding of just under $100,000 from the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers. The grant funds work on predictive technologies to reduce the cost of dredging, promote navigation channel reliability and boost understanding
of the sediment-sharing interactions between inlets and adjacent beaches.
Potential savings in channel maintenance costs depend on efficient management of waterways and tidal inlets. “Our goal is to support the army’s Coastal
Inlets Research Program. We will provide a quantitative assessment of sediment exchange at and around federal inlet navigation channels and quantitative
descriptions of changes at maintained tidal inlets,” said Zarillo.
Under previous grants, Zarillo has made substantial progress toward understanding the processes that control the behavior of tidal inlets through use of
the Coastal Modeling System software he developed. The Sebastian Inlet Tax District already uses the modeling technology to predict sand transport.
With student support, he will continue to modify the system to provide formal calibration and verification of long-term simulations of morphologic change.
The rapid-assessment morphology tool will be able to “fast-forward years ahead to project the shape of the coastlines. We’ll be able to accurately predict
the size of a tidal inlet breach, for example, and know how much dredging to do to keep a channel open.
“The model takes out the guesswork. It lets us know what will happen to a shoreline before we make final plans to stabilize it,” said Zarillo.
The system will be beta-tested in inlets at Sebastian and St. Augustine, Fla.; Ponce, P.R.; and on the south shore of Long Island. Although completion of
the tool is expected to take three years, the product will be in the public domain before that time, available to academic institutions, for example.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for maintaining 12,000 miles of federal navigable waterways and more than 156 coastal inlet entrances.