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Capstone Design Of Coastal Wetlands

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1998 Annual Conference


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 28, 1998

Start Date

June 28, 1998

End Date

July 1, 1998



Page Count


Page Numbers

3.133.1 - 3.133.6

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Paper Authors

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Robert H. Mayer

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2478

Capstone Design of Coastal Wetlands Robert H. Mayer U. S. Naval Academy


Natural wetlands are found in many forms throughout the world: as inland salt flats in arid regions; as bogs and tundra in cooler, humid regions; as riparian forests and backwater swamps along rivers and streams. In coastal environs, tidal salt and freshwater marshes and mangrove swamps (mangals) are typical 1.

Although not easily defined, wetlands are often identified as transitional lands between uplands and aquatic systems where the water table is usually at or near the surface or where the land is typically covered by shallow water 1. Among their distinguishing characteristics is a predominance of hydric soils that are frequently inundated or saturated. Naturally, the prevalent vegetation is hydrophytic, i.e., capable of growing in wet soils. Because wetlands often possess characteristics of both terrestrial and aquatic environments, they offer unique habitats for a variety of wildlife and, biologically, are extremely productive.

Besides habitat provision, wetlands are known to improve water quality, reduce (the potential for) flooding, and control erosion. Their vibrant productivity provides for several commercial harvests including fish, shellfish, timbers and tannin, and offers many recreational opportunities such as birdwatching, fishing, and hunting. For better or worse, natural wetlands have also been used for wastewater discharge. Even so, drainage and filling of wetlands, principally for agricultural use, were common practices 2. Fortunately, increased public awareness of wetland functions and values led to the “no net loss of wetlands” policies of the Bush and Clinton Administrations. Today, engineers will find it useful and often necessary to include wetlands restoration and conservation among project objectives.

Accordingly, instruction in wetlands function awareness and design procedures has been intro- duced in the ocean engineering curriculum at the U.S. Naval Academy. Also, capstone design projects have been initiated which include wetlands restoration or creation as a desired design objective. This paper provides a brief overview of wetlands design principles and reviews the specific tasking of three recent capstone projects. Coupled with its complementary reference 3, the paper provides others a convenient means to initiate instruction in this relatively-new coastal design methodology.


Technical guidelines and procedures concerning various aspects of wetlands design and con- struction have been published by government agencies and others. Among the more useful for student activities is a design task sequence developed by Palermo 4 at the U.S. Army Engineer


Mayer, R. H. (1998, June), Capstone Design Of Coastal Wetlands Paper presented at 1998 Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington.

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