Inlet sand back pass redux
According to the State of Florida, 86% of all sand loss from beaches ends up in coastal inlets and is jetted out of the local sand system, lost forever. The inlets are the culprits. Once again according to the State of Florida, dredging inlets only makes matters worse and accelerates sand loss.
I am writing this particular column in response to the recent admonitions of a commissioner that in essence stated that any ideas that I bring before the town will be rejected by the present commission because of their enmity towards me personally. My response is that if this is true, those commissioners are not fit to hold offices of public trust and are possibly doing a huge disservice to the community they swore to protect. Being in public office constrains one to serving all the people, not just the business community, or the country club crowd.
This past week I attended the commission workshop where the town manager delivered a lengthy assessment of viable beach alternatives at the north end of Longboat Key. One of the presented options was for the town to take no actions. The town manager noted that the principle consequence of no action would be salt water encroachment on the mangroves on Greer Island, which belongs to Manatee County. One could ask why Longboat Key taxpayers would be interested in spending upwards of $8 million dollars to maintain a county park which Manatee County taxpayers already support with their current taxes. Why does Manatee County spend millions on Coquina Park and not a penny on its park-lands on the northern tip of an adjacent island?
Questioning the list of actions available to the town will probably make little difference to the town’s decision-making process. However, I would not feel that I had done my best for my community if I did not make one last effort to implore the town manager to take more time and bring in town officials from a few of the many Florida communities that have instituted inlet sand bypass and back pass projects. Until we have answered the question of why these communities chose to manage their inlets and recycle the sand back onto their beaches, one could argue, we have not done a thorough exploration of options available to our community for managing a chronic sand loss problem, that went unaddressed by our beach consultants for decades.
Florida passed numerous statutes in 2012 mandating that communities look to inlet management and sand bypass as a means of stabilizing both inlets and adjoining beaches, as a means of reducing escalating costs and mediating diminishing borrow area resources. Unfortunately the town manager’s report made no mention of a comprehensive inlet management alternative for Longboat Pass, with accompanying cost analysis. Doesn’t it make sense that we look into an alternative that works so well for other communities for far less money in the long run than we’re now anticipating spending on constant sand replacement? Jetties and groins do not diminish sand loss so renourishment costs will not be reduced by multi-million dollar groins at the north end.
The public official who confided his and his fellow commissioner’s dislike for my activities told me that it really irked him that I kept pressing issues, and felt there was an overly aggressive attitude when writing about the town government. In this instance of alternative beach maintenance opportunities examined by the town, the absence of any mention of inlet management and sand redistribution, could not be ignored. I am not talking about the lip-service inlet management bone being put forth by the dredging engineers, where a pit is dug inside the pass and that is all. I am afraid very little sand will be conserved that way. Only an aggressive, constant recycling of sand will yield a constant and effective beach profile at the lowest cost to the community.
Here is a link from a university study of beach maintenance alternatives that is fairly complete. Please read to the end and their assessment of the most effective method for maintaining inlets and affected beaches.
The commission needs to ask the town manager to consult with town officials and engineers involved in active inlet management programs to determine if Longboat Pass is a viable site for a sand reclamation project that will end the need for periodic dredging on the north end. The Olson Engineering study seems to indicate there is enough sand entering Longboat Pass both from the north and from the south to warrant further study and analysis.
Hillsboro Inlet installed inlet management and sand bypass operations in the mid 80’s and has never had to renourish adjacent Deerfield Beach since that time. The average yearly cost to the taxpayers is less than $1 million annually to maintain both the inlet and the surrounding beaches.
There are dozens of communities that already have active inlet management and sand reclamation operations in place. That our town government is not even looking at sand recycling is perhaps less than an optimal approach to resolving a decades-old problem at both the north and south ends of the island.
Here are two citations of Florida Statues enacted in 2012 that mandate inlet management as a preferred approach to beach stabilization.
161.143 nlet management; planning, prioritizing, funding, approving, and implementing projects.—
(1) tudies, projects, and activities for the purpose of mitigating the erosive effects of inlets and balancing the sediment budget of the inlet and adjacent beaches must be supported by separately approved inlet management plans or inlet components of the statewide comprehensive beach management plan. Such plans in support of individual inlet projects or activities must, pursuant to s. 161.161(1)(b), evaluate each inlet to determine the extent of the inlet’s erosive effect on adjacent beaches and, if significant, make recommendations to mitigate such ongoing erosive effects and provide estimated costs for such mitigation.
I do not feel that the town has met these requirements.
Perhaps we might enlist a non-local, non-dredging oriented engineering to advose the town about the latest Florida statutes that save us time and money. Here are excerpts from 161.142
(3) onstruction waterward of the coastal construction control line on downdrift coastal areas, on islands substantially created by the deposit of spoil, located within 1 mile of the centerline of navigation channels or inlets, providing access to ports listed in s. 403.021(9)(b), which suffers or has suffered erosion caused by such navigation channel maintenance or construction shall be exempt from the permitting requirements and prohibitions of s. 161.053(4) or (5); however, such construction shall comply with the applicable Florida Building Code adopted pursuant to s. 553.73. The timing and sequence of any construction activities associated with inlet management projects shall provide protection to nesting sea turtles and their hatchlings and habitats, to nesting shorebirds, and to native salt-resistant vegetation and endangered plant communities. Beach-quality sand placed on the beach as part of an inlet management project must be suitable for marine turtle nesting.
Getting outdated and inaccurate information from our current engineers may be impeding rather than assisting the town’s efforts.