Coastal defense strategies based on structures are increasingly unpopular as they are costly, leave lasting scars on the landscape, and sometimes have limited effectiveness or even adverse impacts. While a clear improvement concerning aesthetic considerations using soft submerged breakwater is undeniable, their design has often focused on wave transmission processes across the crest of the structure, overlooking short- to medium-term morphodynamic responses. In this study, we used a time- and depth-averaged morphodynamic model to investigate the impact of the implementation of a submerged breakwater on surf zone sandbar dynamics at the beach of Sète, SE France. The hydrodynamic module was calibrated with data collected during a field experiment using three current profilers deployed to capture rip-cell circulation at the edge of the structure. The model showed good agreement with measurements, particularly for the longshore component of the flow (RMSE = 0.07 m/s). Results showed that alongshore differential wave breaking at the edge of the submerged breakwater drove an intense (0.4 m/s) two-dimensional circulation for low- to moderate-energy waves. Simulations indicated that inner-bar rip channel development, which was observed prior to the submerged reef implementation, was inhibited in the lee of the structure as rip-cell circulation across the inner bar disappeared owing to persistently low-energy breaking waves. The cross-shore sandbar dynamics in the lee of the structure were also impacted due to the drastic decrease of the offshore-directed flow over the inner-bar during energetic events. This paper highlights that implementation of a submerged breakwater results in larges changes in nearshore hydrodynamics that, in turn, can affect overall surf zone sandbar behavior.
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