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Date of Issue: February 27, 2008

Sandscript

Hey, here’s some things to think about

“So what’s the need for beach renourishment?”

That question was posed by a bright friend the other day in the wake of all the talk of pumping sand onto our beaches, both here and far.

It sounds like a simple question until you start to work it through.

Beach renourishment, for newcomers, is the practice of getting sand from some place offshore onto our beaches, which have lost sand and are now narrow strips of shore. The sand vanishes through a variety of reasons: erosion, tidal drift or, as some argue, sea level rise.

In Southwest Florida, erosion is pretty much a state of life for our beaches, so the shores tend to get skinnier and skinnier as the years go on and on.

If you’re thinking on the “green” side, beach renourishment can indeed be called an icky thing.

You’re digging up the critters from the Gulf of Mexico and disrupting their world as the sand ends up on the beach. Sand from somewhere out in the Gulf gets pumped onto the beach, be it a few hundred yards out or many miles away. Imagine the pipes, imagine the disturbance, imagine the disbalance of the environment.

Then you’ve got to think of the female sea turtles, which have to traverse whatever pumps and pipes are out there to get to and from the shore during their nesting cycle in summer if there is any pumping activity going on which, it seems, always happens during the turtle nesting cycle from May to October.

And then there’s the sand coming from offshore onshore. What about the critters on the beach? What about the critters under the beach? What about the critters upshore of the beach, like birds and all the rest of the natural creatures that like to hang out near the water?

And to continue the “green” aspects of beach renourishment, there’s the price.

If or when there is such a project approved for an area, the state and feds generally agree it’s for 50 years. That means that about $1 million per mile will be allocated for new beach every 10 years or so. Those figures are not accurate per beach per project, but use the numbers as a ballpark.

So, you greenies will say, does this all mean that we’re killing turtles and other critters at an astronomical cost to just bring some sand to shore?

And don’t forget that the sand is coming to a place that all coastal engineers describe as “unconsolidated sediments.” Our Islands are sandbars to protect the mainland. Nobody was supposed to live out here. Even the Native Americans stayed on the mainland, high atop oyster mounds. On the mainland. A few thousand years ago.

Yep, Anna Maria Island is made up of unconsolidated sediments, basically, which isn’t all that different from a sandbar. Actually, it’s exactly like a sandbar, except people have chosen to live on it. Where’s the “beef” underneath? It’s not there. What a beach renourishment project is doing is putting more sand on a sandbar where no one should be living on in the first place.

 

But?

But we do live out here. As for the resorts, restaurants, homes, businesses - take the order of the above as you will - here we are.

For the perhaps “non-greenies,” a beach renourishment is a godsend. It generally adds 250 feet of width to a beach that is dangerously close to a house or a condo or a restaurant or a resort. The beach add-on adds on to tourist revenue, general business revenue, general happy-time revenue.

Anna Maria Island has gone through a series of beach renourishment projects. The first was problematic, with arguably more problems than sand. The latter worked smoother, and upcoming ones promise to be sublime … depending on how much of a greenie you’re proclaiming to be.

 

The question

“So what’s the need for beach renourishment?”

Beach renourishment has some questionable problems with the environment.

Beach renourishment has positive aspects for the Island.

As I said at the start of this diatribe, it was a good question. Lemme know by e-mail, paul@islander.org.

 

Sandscript factoid

While you’re pondering the concepts of years ago and years to come, here’s a thought from years past.

Maybe 20-plus years ago the Sarasota Bay National Estuary Program came into being, and with it there formed a group called the citizen advisory committee. It was a bunch of people who offered suggestions to all the technical and scientific types who all offered their thoughts to the rest of the bunch. Then there were the politicos who made the decisions, but we won’t go there.

What was interesting was what came out the first citizens’ group.

There was some lively discussion regarding the best way to preserve and protect Sarasota Bay.

Option No. 1: Put up a fence. Around the bay. Preserve. Protect. Keep everyone out.

Option No. 2: Different.

Based on today, No. 2 won.

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