AUSTIN (KXAN) – An installation of “coir logs” on the shore of Lake Austin is showing positive results. A recent visit to the pilot project revealed that erosion in the area has slowed significantly as plant life flourishes in the formerly sandy area.

In 2009, Austin’s Watershed Protection Department installed the coir logs. “A coir log is 100% coconut fibers, it’s the husk,” explained Andrew Clamann with the Watershed Department. “This entire object is biodegradable.”

The department installed two rows of the logs in Lake Austin in a spot near Mansfield Dam. The rows created a barrier in front of an area that was just “sand and silt.” The department then seeded four different plants.

One aquatic grass took over. According to Clamann, “it grabbed ahold, set the roots through it, and has stabilized this whole area and allowed other plants to move in.”

Now little trees are taking root in the area, further stabilizing it.

“The point of the of the pilot project was that if we can demonstrate that it can work, then we can export that idea to all the landowners.”

In 2009, Coir logs were installed in a pilot project to prevent erosion on Lake Austin. By 2014, significant growth in the area slowed erosion. (Courtesy: Austin Watershed Protection Department)

What are coir logs?

Made from the shaved fibers of a coconut, coir logs have been used for erosion prevention for years. They can last from two to five years. Not only can plants grow their roots into it, but they also prevent waves from crashing into the shore and speeding up erosion.

“The problem with the shoreline erosion is that the waves cut away at the bottom. And that undermines the stability of the entire slope,” Clamann said.

“We’ve been looking for solutions for a long time. And I wanted to address this problem.”

Clamann said that in 2009, they did some research and found the coir log solution for their erosion problem on the lake.

A side-by-side comparison show growth between 2009 and 2014 thanks to coir logs. (Courtesy: Austin Watershed Protection Department)

Other cities have also used these logs to prevent erosion. This year, New Jersey began placing coir logs along their coast. The coast in Neptune, NJ was heavily eroded following Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

Future of coir logs in Austin

The Watershed Protection Department attempted an additional install of coir logs after the success of the 2009 pilot project, but they used less materials during that installation to test how much coir was needed to prevent erosion. That project was not a success.

The department hopes to continue the project along the banks of Lake Austin, but they say the city owns little land on the lake. Blue green algae blooms have also dominated their attention the past few years.