LAFAYETTE, LA (WVUE) - A Cajun invention created by a man who grew up on the Louisiana coast could be the answer to stopping erosion.
It's called The Wave Robber. Invented by Webster Pierce, the invention "robs" the waves of their energy and collects sediment to rebuild the coast.
"You have to imagine a seawall. A seawall has one function - that is to prevent erosion from the land behind it. What I did was build something similar to a seawall, but what I did was allow perforations to go through," Pierce said.
Experts think the device almost virtually diminishes the power of waves, keeping the force from eating away at the coast.
"I can speak to wave reduction. It works as well as advertised, about 80-90 percent is what I've been getting," said Grant Besse, a grad student at University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
Besse is part of team at the university that is working to test the device in a lab and create an efficient model that one day could be produced on a mass scale.
"The beauty of this device is a typical breakwater or jetty uses rocks that can't be moved. This device can be pumped with water, sunk to the floor, anchored down, so when you're ready to move the device, you can just pump the water out of it and it floats back up and you can move wherever you want along the coast," said Nick McCoy, an engineer on the project.
McCoy and Besse have monitored the unit in the field for more than a year, and already they've seen growth on the coast.
"In the field, we've seen directly behind the device over 6 inches of sediment gain, and we've seen smaller increments of sediment gain as we get farther away, but that's because a lot of the heavier sediment is falling out right behind the device," McCoy said.
The device is preferable to a seawall because of it's ability to let some water through.
"A wall, you actually damage the ecosystem, you reduce the connectivity. Connectivity is very important for the ecosystem. The beauty of this unit is the connectivity, the water can go back and forth from front to back," said Dr. Daniel Gang, an environmental engineer at UL-Lafayette.
Pierce is passionate about his invention because he's seen his coast disappear before his eyes.
"I'd like to leave a legacy that someone took the initiative to try and save this area. It's easy to say I want to do it, and not do it. I'm the type of person who rolls his sleeves up and says let's go do it," Pierce said.
The team is still waiting on a company to complete molds of the device before it can produced and tested on a larger scale.