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The following appeared in FloridaToday.com on March 13, 2013.
Guest column: Stuck in the sand trap
Beach renourishment projects a waste of money
by Greg Gordon
It appears we need to be convinced that American taxpayers should spend more than $36 million to bury a Florida reef, a federally protected fish habitat and a juvenile turtle sanctuary.
We need to approve when miles of our beaches will be closed for two to three months a year, handing them a 10-year permit. It should be no problem to have sand dredged up from the Canaveral Shoals, sand that was last tested in 1999.
Brevard County residents are being coaxed to give up tourism revenues from sustainable outdoor activities for all ages, accessible by everyone, in order to have more square feet of sand for towels and beach chairs in front of private condos and hotels.
It is not just those beachfront condos and hotels that drive Brevard’s economy. You cannot go a mile on this stretch of coastline without seeing a surfboard, fishing rod or kayak being driven, biked or walked. People move here for the quality of life, which the county government is trying to convince you should be lessened to appease the few taxpayers protecting their beachfront views. It should be easy for them to do, just look at your insurance bill to find the Citizens Insurance overcharge. We are forced to pay for their protection behind a shifting dune.
So do we really need this project, and will it work? The Florida Department of Environmental Protection reported last month that the mid-reach beaches actually grew about 3 inches per year on average during the last 30 years. It was the dune line that receded, mostly caused by beachfront properties trapping sand behind seawalls or other armoring.
Almost half of the 573,000 cubic yards of sand they want to dump will stay below the high-tide water line. And the artificial rock mats they plan to mimic the living near-shore reef that gets exposed at low tide won’t be built until months after the dredging and then placed 1,000 feet off the coast, 15 feet underwater.
A five-year peer reviewed study just published in Ocean & Coastal Management concluded that “Boulder reefs do not provide an equitable mitigation for hard-bottom habitat loss.” When asked what would happen if the replacement “reefs” don’t work, the Army Corps of Engineers District Commander responded: “The permit is conditioned that (if) it cannot be demonstrated that the constructed mitigation reef is performing successfully, no future beach nourishment will be authorized. Discontinuing beach nourishment in the area should allow the hard bottom, which was buried by the nourishment project, to become re-exposed over time.”
Should we pay $36 million for sand that will most likely move somewhere else in as little as two years? $10 million of that cost is paid directly by Brevard County, $7 million from the rest of the state, and $19 million from taxpayers outside of Florida.
It is time for Florida residents to get their heads out of the sand and tell their elected officials to stop throwing money into the sea.
Gordon is a Brevard County property owner, surfer and volunteer with the Surfrider Foundation, a nonprofit whose mission is the protection of the world’s oceans, waves, and beaches.