Thursday, June 21, 2007

Life and Death in the Sandy Shadows of Coastal Armor

Photo by Paul Wellman

When seawalls are constructed on an eroding coastline they cause the beach to narrow through a process known as passive erosion. Not surprisingly this compression of the beach ecosystem squeezes out the intertidal zone. The result?....

Fewer macroinvertebrates (we call them beach fleas or beach hoppers). It turns out these little guys play a critical role in food web of beaches by devouring kelp that washes ashore and by providing a food source for birds.

Jenny Dugan, a researcher at UCSB, has measured and quantified this effect. She found that:

Shorebirds were more than three times more prevalent in non-armored beaches. Those with sea walls yielded significantly fewer macroinvertebrates as well as intertidal zones — the middle area between the high- and low-tide points on a beach — that were 47 to 67 percent narrower that those of their “unprotected” counterparts. Basically, what Dugan’s research proved was what many a beachgoer has long suspected or at least detected: The beaches in front of sea walls are different.

Read more in this great article from the Santa Barbara Independent:
Life and Death in the Sandy Shadows of Coastal Armor

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Grunion Indicator of Beach Health?

SEAN DuFRENE / Union-Tribune
A grunion dug into the sand to lay her eggs. Little is understood about why the tiny fish choose certain beaches for their spawning.

Are Grunion, those near mythic fish who come up on the sandy beach to spawn at high tide in the early hour mornings, a possible indicator species for the health of west coast beaches? How sensitive are they do the beach quality? Will beach fill projects impact their ability to successfully spawn or limit their habitat? Or will it provide new beaches and increase their success?

Do steep beaches cause them problems?

If the sand is too fine or course will they impact their ability to spawn?

Will the sharp corners of angular sand imported for beach fill be a factor?

Scientists at Palomar College and Pepperdine want to know.

Read here to learn about research on these fascinating fish.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Out of Sand?

Sand banks in the Bahamas - a source of sand for Miami?

Miami Beach is running out of sand. Justified concerns about impacting local reefs have limited their options and they already lost a "sand war" when they tried to "borrow" sand off of Fort Pierce last year. They are now looking to the Bahamas as a possible source.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Senator Coburn and the Next Bridge to Nowhere

Senator Coburn and the Next Bridge to Nowhere

Imperial Beach gets sand blasted in the senate.

Poor, poor, city of Imperial Beach. With a huge chip on its civic shoulder and the inability to think strategically, engage the public in a meaningful way or balance a budget, the city is risking bankruptcy and the further erosion of its squandered reputation by pleading for up to $56 million (according to today's The San Diego Union-Tribune) to have the Army Corps of Engineers carry out a sand-dredging project to place millions of cubic yards of sand on beaches that do not require any extra sand (our beach is big). The sand in question will come from an area adjacent to a sewage outfall pipe and once used as a WWI Aviation Gunnery and bombing range. Once the sand is dredged and placed on our beaches, the first winter storm will wash it away in less than 24 hours.

The project could destroy the Tijuana Sloughs as well, a legendary big-wave spot, now listed as dead in a T-shirt marketed by the Gap.

Thankfully, Senator Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma), an old-school fiscal conservative, and the man who defeated "The Bridge to Nowhere" noticed that it seemed odd to deliver millions in scarce federal monies for sand to Imperial Beach when levees in Sacramento need fixing. The senator noted that the city has contracted (to the tune of $184,000 since 2001) with Marlowe & Company to lobby elected officials for the sand money.

Here is the senator on the IB sand dredging project:

While the City of Imperial Beach has budgeted tens of thousands of dollars to hire a Washington, DC lobbying firm and to pay for cash prizes for sandcastle competitions, it expects the U.S. taxpayer to pay the price of maintaining sandy beaches. Corps priorities should be determined based upon the merits of projects, not on the political connections of Washington, DC lobbyists.

The irony here is the city of Imperial Beach is begging for the federal government to dredge and dump sand on beaches that were closed for close to 200 days last year due to pollution from Mexico. Apparently the city is asking for the sand in order to safeguard the Imperial Beach Sandcastle Competition, which last year was known locally last year as "Gangfest." The Imperial Beach Eagle & Times described the event this way:

The event has morphed from a small-town, family oriented, fun-in-the-sun beach blast, designed to draw in tourist dollars and put I.B. on the vacation map, into what many residents and business owners feel has become a carnival side show complete with gangs of scary visitors. Last year, crowds exceeding 400,000 swarmed over the beach, clogged streets and resulted in 179 felony crimes. According to law enforcement officials, a near riot situation developed on Saturday night after the fireworks show. Masses of people crowded onto side streets and a fight started. Gang members tried to incite more violence and sheriffs had to move quickly using canine units and special crowd control tactics to break up the mob. As laid-back as this very laid-back town is, tolerance for such a big, messy party has grown thin and locals are saying enough is enough.

The irony here is that Imperial Beach Mayor Jim Janney and City Manager Gray Brown scoffed at a suggestion made by Wildcoast to have beachfront property owners, the wealthiest residents of Imperial Beach, pay their fair share of the project. However, Janney and Brown have asked low-income, at risk children do their own fundraising to build a skateboard park that will give them something to do when local beaches are closed. Meanwhile Mayor Jim Janney, who campaigned on a promise of fiscal restraint and accountability, has disappeared from public view. Got mayor anyone?


City's sand-restoration plan survives attempt in Senate to put project on back burner

City's sand-restoration plan survives attempt in Senate to put project on back burner

By Janine Zúñiga
May 16, 2007

Link to story

IMPERIAL BEACH – A delay in Imperial Beach's sand-replenishment project was averted yesterday when the U.S. Senate rejected an amendment to a major water-funding bill that would have put another project first.
City officials say the multimillion-dollar project would protect the beach against storm damage with periodic sand deposits for 50 years. It is included in the $14 billion Water Resources Development Act of 2007, which would authorize more than 600 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects around the country.

This week, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said pork projects were attached to the bill and cited the Imperial Beach sand-restoration plan.

Imperial Beach, with a population of 27,500, has struggled financially for decades. City officials are seeking to secure federal funding for the project, which is expected to cost a total of $56.2 million.

Coburn said wealthy beachfront property owners would be protected by the project and that the city would have sand for its popular sand castle competition. Radio and TV commentators and other senators quickly picked up that description.

The city's lobbyist in Washington, Greg Burns of Marlowe & Co., said: “This is not La Jolla. This is one of a few remaining working-class communities in California directly on the coast. It's a community on the rise, but this is not a city of second and third homes for rich people.”

The Senate overwhelmingly rejected Coburn's amendment, which would have postponed funding indefinitely for the city until a flood-control project in Sacramento was completed.

“That's good news,” Imperial Beach City Manager Gary Brown said. “We've been working on this for many years, and there certainly has been nothing secret about it. This is a case of the small guy being picked on for unwarranted reasons.”

Coburn, in a statement released after the vote, said Congress should focus on higher-priority projects in the water bill.

“Sand castles on Imperial Beach in San Diego won't hold back floodwaters in Sacramento,” Coburn said.

The city's sand project would be the largest of its kind on the West Coast. Senate Democrats hope to vote on the water bill this week.

Janine Zuniga: (619) 498-6636;

Click here for a link to Widcoast's Serge Dedina's thoughts on this project

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Hazardous 'shells' in the sand

"A decent article in today’s Star Ledger (NJ) about the discarded munitions dredged up in Surf City. It contradicts another paper that reported people are cancelling their Surf City rentals, and real estate rentals in general in Surf City are suffering.", says Surfrider Foundation's John Weber

Hazardous 'shells' in the sand
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
Star-Ledger Staff

The homemade poster with the skull and crossbones was taken down, but the official sign still stands behind the fencing closing off every beach in Surf City:

Danger: Unexploded Ordnance Found. Beaches Closed Until Further Notice. Do Not Enter.

While other Jersey Shore towns are busy sprucing up the beaches for Memorial Day, the residents of Surf City stare wistfully at a brand new, replenished oceanfront that has been closed since March 5, when a beachcomber with a metal detector found a rusty fuse at the surf's edge.

Since then, cleanup crews for the Army Corps of Engineers have found more than 1,000 unexploded old munitions. They were buried in the 500,000 cubic yards of sand that was sucked up from the ocean floor and sprayed onto the shore in the first phase of the Long Beach Island beach replenishment project.

More than $2 million has already been spent recovering the old military ordnance, but project leaders warn they cannot guarantee the Surf City beaches will be reopened for the all-important start of the summer season less than three weeks away.
"We were ahead of schedule and should have been done by now, but then the nor'easter hit. There was a significant movement of sand and more ordnance emerged," said George Follett, a retired Navy bomb expert and corps munitions expert, as he gazed at crews with metal detectors scouring the sand.

"So we're going back over the entire 8,100-foot stretch of beach, to do it again," this time going into the surf, 150-feet out from the low tide mark, he added.

The 1.6-mile stretch covers every beach in Surf City and a few of the northern beaches in neighboring Ship Bottom.
Even when the cleanup is done, Follett said, that does not mean the beach will get a clean bill of health. The equipment used to detect the ordnance is effective down only to about three feet. The amount of dredged sand deposited on the beach is eight feet deep in some places.

"I am calling this 'phase one' of the cleanup. We're not sure yet what the other phases will be, but we will have to come back as beach erosion progresses," or after any significant storm, Follett said.

Read on at:

New Jersey Beaches Da Bomb!

Making a buck in LBI despite closed beaches

By DONNA WEAVER Staff Writer, (609) 978-2015
Published: Wednesday, May 9, 2007

SURF CITY — One island business is putting a humorous spin on the beach closings, but some people are not amused.
Joe Muzzillo, owner of Exit 63 Wearhouse, formerly Beach Nutz, said he is making the best of a bad situation by launching a Surf City Bomb Squad fashion and accessory line. Muzzillo has sweatshirts, T-shirts, hats and stickers available with sayings that put a humorous spin on the munitions that have been found on the beaches since March.

Muzzillo is offering products with four phrases: “Surf City Bomb Squad,” “I Got Bombed on LBI,” “Surf City — ‘Da' Bomb'” and “Surf City — Our Beaches Will Blow You Away.”

Muzzillio said he even had a worker who was scanning the beach come to his store to purchase a T-shirt.
“I'm almost trying to make light of the situation. We'll keep the designs real conservative up until Memorial Day, but if the beaches aren't open I have some more serious designs,” Muzzillo said. “I hate that I'm doing it, but I'm in the T-shirt business and I need to do something to make up for the money I'm going to lose.”

But Rick Reynolds, executive director of the Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce is not laughing. Muzzillo said Monday he received a call last week from Reynolds, discouraging the sale of the items.

“I think that to a certain degree this is something that has the potential to be misconstrued. It can be a fun, frivolous type of thing, but it may not be seen that way by everyone else who has a stake in the beaches,” Reynolds said Tuesday evening.
The discovery of military munitions on the beaches in March contributed to the delay of the beach-replenishment project's completion in Surf City. Additional beaches in Ship Bottom, which were part of the area where the project tapered off, were closed earlier last month.

So far 1,044 munitions have been found on Surf City and Ship Bottom beaches, Khaalid Walls, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman, said Tuesday.

“We're going to submit our recommendations to the DEP next week, and it will be a linear process and we'll come to a decision jointly to open the beaches,” Walls said.

Read more at:

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Managed Retreat: Ventura council approves more funds for bike path

San Luis Obispo-based RRM Design Group is scheduled to finish the engineering plans this year.

By staff reports
April 10, 2007

The Ventura City Council agreed Monday night to spend an additional $130,000 to complete designs for relocating part of a damaged coastal bike path and rebuilding the shore with cobble and sand.

The city would maintain the restored beach, under an informal agreement it also approved Monday.

The city wants to relocate the crumbling bike and pedestrian trail on the seaward side of Shoreline Drive about 65 feet inland near the Ventura County Fairgrounds.

Once the bike path and an adjacent parking lot are relocated inland, 25,000 to 30,000 tons of cobblestone would be spread at water's edge, adding to the rocky shoreline. Sand then would be laid over the cobble.

Under the informal agreement, the fairgrounds would provide routine maintenance to the bike path, parking lots, a new restroom and storm-drain system. The city would be responsible for future beach nourishment and repairs stemming from erosion or high surf.

The agreement is expected to be finalized in coming weeks as part of a formal Memorandum of Understanding with the Ventura County Fair Board that would last 25 years.

Several people spoke Monday in favor of the decade-long project to restore the 1,800-foot section of beach and re-create a natural habitat there.

The project has an estimated cost of $5.5 million, but that could grow higher due to rising material costs. The city has about $2 million for the project and has applied for federal and state grants to fill the gap.

San Luis Obispo-based RRM Design Group is scheduled to finish the engineering plans this year.

Click here for original story

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

No dredging near piers in Point Judit

09:51 AM EST on Monday, March 5, 2007
By Peter B. Lord
Journal Environment Writer

Click here for a link to the story

Charter boat operators will not see any dredging around the state piers in Point Judith this winter, because so much garbage was dredged up recently around nearby piers used by commercial fishermen. The refuse outraged surfers and other beach users when it washed ashore in Matunuck during the last two months.

The state Department of Environmental Management sought permission last week to dredge another 9,000 cubic yards from the channel that leads past the charter boat docks to the Great Island Bridge.

But the Coastal Resources Management Council, which regulates dredging in Rhode Island, would only approve dredging some 2,000 yards from a “hump” on the north edge of the channel.

“There is likely to be debris near the docks,” said CRMC dredging coordinator Danni Goulet last week. He said he knows the area needs to be dredged, but he wants to try to figure out a way to do the job next winter without dispersing all the garbage that turned up last month at the commercial fishing piers.

The new work was proposed as an add-on to a far larger project that has been going on for the last two months, the dredging of 120,000 cubic yards of sand from the channels in the Point Judith Harbor of Refuge.

A contractor has been barging the sand out of the harbor and dumping it just offshore to the west in Matunuck to help replenish the badly eroded beaches. By all accounts, the replenishment worked — South Kingstown Town Beach and RoyCarpenter’s Beach have broadened significantly.

But everyone was surprised by unforeseen truckloads of debris that went ashore with the sands. CRMC and Army Corps of Engineers officials said the garbage was dredged up only in the areas adjacent to the commercial fishing piers.

Beer cans, rubber boots, gloves, rope, bits of treat timber and even used diesel fuel filters came ashore with the tides.

Individuals and members of the Rhode Island Surfrider Foundation responded with complaints and their own cleanup efforts. The dredge contractor also assigned workers who filled pickup trucks with debris.

More than 100 people attended a meeting with dredging officials last month to protest and find out how to stop more dumping of refuse.

Goulet said he’s worked in the Great Lakes and all along the East Coast and never seen so much garbage come from one confined location in a harbor.

Larry Mouradjian, an associate director at DEM, which operates the piers, said the DEM would try to create an educational campaign to encourage people using the piers to not throw their garbage in the water.

All the dredging has to stop by March 15 because migratory birds and fish will be arriving.

The Audubon Society of Rhode Island and Save the Bay urged CRMC to do a better job next time.

David Prescott, chairman of the local Surfriders chapter, asked the officials to step up their efforts to remove the refuse from the dredge spoils. “Some of us are out there on a daily basis, and we’re concerned about old filet knives and other sharp metal,” he said.

CRMC chairman Michael Tikoian thanks the Surfriders for helping to clean and monitor the beaches.

CRMC staff estimates about 60,000 yards of sand have washed ashore, and another 30,000 may come ashore incoming weeks.

Group: Surf City alerted to ordnance

Surfriders say they warned of danger in beach project

By DONNA WEAVER Staff Writer, (609) 978-2015
(Published: March 27, 2007)

Clink here for link to story

SURF CITY — A spokesman for the Surfrider Foundation said he warned officials of ordnance being pumped onto the beach at the conception of the island beach-replenishment project.

“We've experienced dozens of these projects,” said John Weber. “This kind of thing has happened elsewhere. I'm surprised that more precautions were not taken.”

Five fuses for explosive projectiles, each more than 50 years old, were found earlier this month in newly placed beach sand between 17th and 24th streets. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is handling the beach-replenishment project, closed down that portion of the beach while it surveys the area looking for more explosives. The corps said last week that work may keep the beach closed past Memorial Day.

Weber said the Surfrider Foundation has seen the effects of dredging and beach-replenishment projects in Monmouth County.

Weber lives in Monmouth County but learned to surf on Long Beach Island, he said. Weber's family has owned its oceanfront home on the island for 34 years. He said he is glad that no one was hurt by the recently found ordnance.

“If I were a local or anybody who uses the beaches I'd be really mad and insulted this big beach was built and I couldn't use it. I think this was avoidable,” Weber said. “They say they used this magnetometer thing and it didn't show anything like this was going to happen.”

Weber said that leads him to two possible conclusions — that the Army Corps of Engineers used the magnetometer, an instrument used to detect the presence of magnetic material, and saw there were big chunks of metal in the sand and dredged it up anyway, or the device isn't accurate enough to give the necessary information.

“Why aren't these questions being asked of the Army Corps? They know this has happened before,” Weber said.

Khaalid Walls, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said a magnetometer was used at the start of the beach replenishment project.

“It's a highly technical metal detector used to scan the area before the dredging began and nothing was found,” Walls said.

Walls said the corps is still conducting an investigation into whether the ordnance could have been missed. He said it could potentially be that the ordnance was buried too deep.

This is the first time the Philadelphia District Corps has discovered ordnance, according to Walls. But this is not the first time a discovery like the one in Surf City has been made on the East Coast, he said.

“In the late '90s there were ordnance found on Bethany Beach in Delaware. We wrapped that scan up of the area pretty quickly,” Walls said.

Bethany Beach's offshore waters had been used for target practice by the U.S. Navy in World War II. A beach replenishment project, like the one in Surf City, dredged offshore sand and accidentally brought small ordnance items onto the beach, according to Geo-Centers, which is now part of Science Applications International Corporation, or SAIC, in San Diego, Calif.

Robert Siegel worked for Geo-Centers in the late 1990s when the ordnance was discovered on Bethany Beach. Siegel processed and analyzed the data collected in the survey of Bethany Beach.

“We see this a lot, ordnance washing up. It's fairly common, especially now with the development in shore communities and sand replenishment projects,” Siegel said in a phone interview Monday.

Siegel is currently doing survey work with the corps in Huntsville, Ala.

Bethany Beach was slated to open for the season two weeks from the date ordnance was discovered. Siegel said a rapid survey of the beach was conducted. Siegel said his memory was hazy because the survey was conducted almost 10 years ago, but he guessed the survey took a week to three weeks.

“But the time needed to collect the data is only part of the project,” Siegel said. “Data needs to be acquired, analyzed and once the data is analyzed, we come up with locations to dig. Digging can be time consuming, as well, depending on the number of digs.”

Siegel said that using a vehicle to survey the area contributed to it being completed quickly.

“Geo-Centers had a system that was called Stohls, (essentially) a dunebuggy ... with a bunch of metal detectors attached to it,” Siegel said. “Surveying with a vehicle, we surveyed closer to 10 to 20 acres a day. It certainly increases efficiency of the project.”

Walls said the corps is using a similar procedure in Surf City. The vehicle will be hooked up to a towed array of magnetometers, about three or four devices. Walls said the devices will be able to cover 15 to 20 feet of land.

“Our goal is to get the beaches up and running before Memorial Day. Safety is our priority. With the businesses and locals on our side, we'll get this done quickly,” Walls said.

To e-mail Donna Weaver at The Press:

Friday, March 23, 2007

South Florida marine life faces peril with 'the wrong' beach

Miami Herald
Posted on Wed, Mar. 21, 2007


To survive constant assault from winds, waves and tides, beach sand has to be akin to Goldliock's porridge -- just right.

But it's been wrong too often in Florida's beach-building program, environmentalists and other critics contend. Now, they fear the pressure of South Florida's sand shortage could only worsen water quality problems that harm marine life, from tiny burrowing beach crabs to centuries-old corals.

''It's a simple fact that most of the offshore sand is not very durable in the beach zone,'' said Harold Wanless, chair of geological science at the University of Miami who has studied renourishment for years.

Grains too small float off to settle as silt on reefs Too big, they roll away with waves instead of sticking around. Too soft, they mush into mud. Too hard, they are tough on nesting turtles and human feet.

Since the 1970s, when regular renourishment efforts started, several studies have documented damage to corals, sponges and fish, including off Miami-Dade and Broward -- typically from water clouded by dredge scoops or from rebuilt beaches oozing what Wanless described as a ``time release of fine grain sand.''

Nesting turtles can turn away from bad rebuilds and burrowing mole crabs, known as ''sand fleas'' to anglers who dig them for bait, can be buried altogether.

''If you put the wrong sand down, the things that live in the beach just die,'' said Terry Gibson, an assistant editor with Florida Sportsman magazine who wrote a 2005 investigative series critical of dredging.

He has seen it happen twice within the last few years alone. First, inland sand poured on a stretch of St. Lucie County beach proved so cement-like that thousands of tons had to be scraped up and trucked away. Another job at Phipps Ocean Park in Palm Beach caked a popular snorkeling reef in suffocating silt, he said.

Regulators, engineering and dredging firms and the influential Florida Shore and Beach Preservation Association, which lobbies for beach funds for counties, insist the widespread ripple effects of the past have been sharply reduced with better sand standards and reef monitoring.

''Clearly, there is no argument there are short-term impacts,'' said Debbie Flack, government affairs director for the association. ``Yes, we've gotten better. No, it's not perfect. We still need to work at it.''

Flack points out that the St. Lucie debacle often cited by critics wasn't a beach widening but an emergency dune repair -- and the state did order the bad sand removed. But she acknowledged environmental oversight suffered during the unprecedented sand-pumping of the last two years to repair the storm-battered coast.

''We rushed projects and as sand sources become more limited, we may be accepting sand quality that isn't acceptable,'' she said. ``Those are issues we need to study and make better.''

With the Legislature declaring beach building in the public interest, regulators must strike a ''delicate balance'' between the environmental and economic considerations, said Paden Woodruff, who supervises beach management for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

''You have to balance the cost of not protecting these areas and the billions of dollars of private property, public property and public infrastructure that is protected by the shoreline,'' he said. ``The economics will always be there.''

But Gibson and T.J. Marshall of the South Florida chapter of The Surfrider Foundation, a group that monitors beach projects, said the program has only encouraged decades of coastal building that has put more people and property at risk.

Both advocate sharply increased ''bypassing'' efforts, meaning mining of sand that builds naturally in some spots for use in erosion hot spots -- a step embraced by regulators.

Marshall said the state has dredged itself into an unsustainable and expensive hole of creating unnaturally wide beaches that begin to erode as soon as they're completed.

''They want to have these beaches that are two football fields wide and those beaches don't exist in Florida,'' Marshall said. ``A natural beach is only 30 to 40 yards wide at maximum.''

Link to Story

Sunday, March 18, 2007

2001 beach benefits short-lived

A surfer walks on the narrow beach at Terra Mar in Carlsbad south of Tamarack Beach Wednesday.
BILL WECHTER Staff Photographer
Order a copy of this photo

By: DAVE DOWNEY - Staff Writer

NORTH COUNTY ---- It was nice while it lasted. When the San Diego Association of Governments dredged up enough sand from the ocean bottom to fill Qualcomm Stadium and piped it onshore in the summer of 2001, San Diego County had some of the finest beaches around.

From Oceanside to Imperial Beach, once-narrow beaches suddenly were 25 to 100 feet wider than they were before the association spent $17.5 million and spread 2 million cubic yards of the fine material along six miles of the county's coastline.

But it didn't last. Winter arrived and storm swells battered the coast. And the manufactured beaches were swept back out to sea.

Within a year, most had thinned by 20 feet to 60 feet, according to a report by Gary Griggs, director of the Institute of Marine Sciences at UC Santa Cruz. Most shrank more the following year.

To read more click here.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Cancun, Nature at War Over Beaches

People walk along the beach in Cancun, Mexico, Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2007. A year after Mexico spent millions to replace its hurricane-devastated beaches, Cancun is fighting against Mother Nature once again: erosion is shrinking its sandy playground. Waves at high tide now lap against the decks of some new, glitzy hotels. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Associated Press Writer

CANCUN, Mexico (AP) -- Cancun and Mother Nature are at war again.

Mexico spent $19 million to replace beaches washed away by Hurricane Wilma in 2005, but erosion has shrunk Cancun's sandy playground to the point where waves at high tide lap against some hotel patios.

To bring tourists pouring back after Hurricane Wilma, the ocean floor was dredged to rebuild eight miles of beach, nearly double their pre-hurricane size, and hotels were refurbished.

Just a year after the grand refurbishment was completed, the beaches have shrunk again, from 100 feet to less than 70 feet at mid-tide in the tourist zone, and swimmers are forced to clamber down 3-foot drops in the sand level to reach the water.

Most sections of beach remain about as wide as before the hurricane hit, although some are less - barely 30 feet wide - and the sea is relentlessly munching away at what's left, said biologist Alfredo Arellano, Yucatan director for the government's Commission for Natural Protected Areas.

Read the rest of this article click here.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Unearthing weapons of past destruction

Some fear dredging will find more bombs

Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 03/7/07


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SURF CITY — The five World War II-era bomb devices found scattered on Surf City's new beachfill have caused some unease about what else could be pumped from the ocean bed during the beach replenishment project here.

John Weber of the Surfrider Foundation, an environmental group, said Tuesday he raised concerns to Long Beach Island town officials more than a year ago over dredging up old chemical weapons from the sea, citing newspaper accounts of such material being dumped off the coasts of at least 11 states, including New Jersey, at the end of World War II.

"I see these articles about (the military) having no idea where this stuff is now," said Weber, who has been a vocal critic of the beachfill project. "And we go dredging around off our shore. God forbid we dredge these things up and onto our beach."

The Army Corps of Engineers has conducted ocean floor surveys and historical research to try to ensure that no explosive waste from past military activity is within the dredge area of the replenishment project, which was recently finished in Surf City and could continue on beaches on most of the island.

The five fuses and fuse adapters found last week, however, could have escaped the survey's radar.

"There is limited potential to find unexploded ordnance in the offshore borrow areas (where sand is taken to replenish beaches) along the coast of LBI, due to World War I and World War II Naval activities," a portion the corps' feasibility study reads.

The corps' project manager, Keith Watson, said the area where the ordnance were found — between 17th and 24th streets — has been closed temporarily and the corps will contract Army munitions specialists to sweep the shore of the entire borough, "just to be safe."

Watson said all that remains to do in Surf City is install dune crossovers and a handicap entrance, and that work could commence within weeks.

The first fuse was found Friday by a person combing the beach with a metal detector. Over the next couple of days, another resident and beachfill workers found the other four. The mix of fuses and adapters to attach the fuses have been disposed of by a bomb squad from Fort Monmouth. Three of the devices contained explosives, said Timothy Rider, a Fort Monmouth spokesman.

The cylindrical adaptors and the nine-inch long fuses, which are shaped like a miniature train whistle, resembled those manufactured in the United States and used during World War II, Rider said.

Historians say military activity off the island was prevalent during the war. So it was not surprising to John Dorrity, director of the Ocean County Veterans Service Bureau, that fuses had surfaced in Surf City — but worrisome nonetheless.

"It's scary when it comes up on a dredging project because you got civilians finding them," he said. "It presents a unique problem. Old ordnance can be very unstable."

Surf City Mayor Leonard T. Connors Jr. viewed the discoveries as typical, however.

"I've seen whales on the beach . . . and destroyers on the beach. You name it, I've seen it," Connors said. "This is not a cataclysmic event that happens once in a lifetime."

Zach Patberg: (609) 978-4582 or

Another related story can be found here:

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Infusion of sand worries surfers

K.C. ALFRED / Union-Tribune
Surfers such as David Thomas (left) and Serge Dedina are concerned that Imperial Beach's sand replenishment project could drastically alter waves and affect marine life. The city says no one has been excluded from commenting on the project.

Some fear dredging will alter Tijuana Sloughs

By Janine Zúñiga

February 18, 2007

Local surfers are fighting Imperial Beach's sand replenishment project, saying the replacement sand may contain contaminants and affect a legendary surf spot known as the Tijuana Sloughs.

The project involves dredging tons of offshore sand and depositing it onto the city's shore. Over the years, heavy storms have washed away the city's beach. During the winter months, Imperial Beach is without sand up to most property lines. Cobblestones cover much of the beach along the southern edge of Seacoast Drive.
Sand acts as a buffer against heavy storms, protecting land and property. The city estimates it loses about 6 feet of beach a year to storm damage and erosion.

“The beach is a very fundamental recreation area and an economic generator for the city,” City Manager Gary Brown said. “It's not just a resource for us. For more and more people living out east in Chula Vista, we're the local beach.”

The sand project is awaiting authorization through the federal Water Resources Development Act. Once that is approved, the city can lobby for federal construction funds.

Surfers speak up

Surfers said they were caught off guard in August when city officials certified an environmental review of the project.
“There was no effort made to engage the surfing world,” said longtime surfer Serge Dedina. “We want more information on the project, and we want to be involved.”

The surfers are following the lead of their Hawaiian and East Coast counterparts, who have become increasingly involved in municipal sand projects. For years, Eastern states from Florida to New Jersey have been getting millions of dollars in federal funding for sand replenishment projects. Surfers there said they wanted to make sure the projects didn't disrupt waves or harm the shoreline and marine life.

In Imperial Beach, surfers say they have cause to worry.

Six years ago, the San Diego Association of Governments put 120,000 cubic yards of sand on the Imperial Beach shore as part of a larger coastal replenishment effort. Then, in early 2005, the city received about 250,000 cubic yards of sand dredged from San Diego Bay.

David Thomas, a local surfer and coastal engineer, said that in addition to the sand, the city got steel rods and mystery chunks of hardened sand and shells washing up onshore.

The water was murky and silt-filled for months, Thomas said, and he saw it turn surfboards black.

Locals say the project temporarily wiped out regular surfing spots, although the dumped sand did create a reef northwest of the pier. Surfers call the spot “Toxics.”

Contamination worries

The Silver Strand Shoreline Renourishment Project, the largest planned along the West Coast, will move an initial 1.6 million cubic yards of sand from the coastal floor to the Imperial Beach shore. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which will do the work, will replenish the sand every 10 years for 50 years.
Dredged sand will partly replenish what has been lost with the damming of the Tijuana River. The river used to carry sediment from the nearby hills through the valley and down to the shore. Without the sediment reaching the shore, a dramatic imbalance has caused the shoreline to erode.

Imperial Beach officials say no one has been excluded from commenting on the sand project. Meetings have been legally publicized, they said.

Tim Townsley, who owns TNT Surfboards, recently formed the Imperial Beach Waterman's Committee. The group – composed of biologists, coastal engineers and business owners – plans to meet regularly with city officials to discuss surfing issues, such as the sand project and water quality, as well as concerns such as redevelopment and public art.

The committee's main issue with the upcoming project is where the sand will come from. Project coordinators have identified two sites, one near the northern edge of the city and the other near the U.S.-Mexico border.

Dedina said sand from the border area likely contains contaminants because it is between the mouth of the Tijuana River, where sewage-contaminated water routinely enters and pollutes the ocean, and a pipe that dumps partially treated sewage into the sea. The Corps of Engineers and city officials prefer that site, however, because the northern site has too many cobblestones.

Greg Wade, Imperial Beach's community development director, said the city relied on a Corps of Engineers study conducted from 1997 to 2002 that shows no contamination hazards or problems with the grain size at the border site.

Surfers are objecting to that site for another reason – it may significantly alter the Tijuana Sloughs, a surf spot known around the world. Surfers warn that taking sand from anywhere near the Sloughs could reduce the size of the waves.

Search for sand, funding

Meanwhile, officials are trying to secure funding for the sand project, which the Corps of Engineers estimates will cost about $60 million.
It cost $1.75 million to evaluate the erosion and recommend a solution. Initial construction is expected to cost $13.7 million, which includes $1.5 million in preconstruction, engineering and design work. The city's share for initial construction costs is 36 percent, or $4.8 million.

Monitoring and replenishing the sand for 50 years will cost approximately $40 million. The federal government is expected to cover half of those costs. The city is attempting to get grants to cover the other half.

Thomas, the local surfer, said the city and the Corps of Engineers try to keep costs as low as possible when choosing sand sites. He said dredging sand at the northern location is less desirable and may be too costly because of the cobblestones. He fears that a decision has been made and it may be too late.

City Manager Brown said the final decision on the sand site has not been made.

“The key is first to nail down the funding, then explore the positives and negatives of switching sites,” he said.

Townsley, the local surf shop owner, said everyone should have a say in what happens at the beach.

“We all live here because we all want to be here,” Townsley said. “We're voters. Keep us in mind.”

Janine Zuniga: (619) 498-6636;

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Monday, February 5, 2007

Sharing the shoreline: Beach grooming stirs ecological controversy

By Terry Rodgers
February 4, 2007

Just because it's winter and tourists are in hibernation doesn't mean beach-maintenance workers are sitting on their hands.

JOHN GASTALDO / Union-Tribune
San Diego's supervisor of coastal maintenance, Dennis Simmons, shown near the Mission Beach jetty, met with about 40 Southern California beach managers and coastal scientists last week in Malibu to discuss environmental impacts of beach upkeep.
Crews are still raking kelp and picking up the never-ending blizzard of trash. Another high-priority task is tending the temporary sand berms that protect lifeguard stations, boardwalks and other oceanfront facilities.
“We're in storm-watch mode,” said Dennis Simmons, San Diego's supervisor of coastal maintenance.

Winter is also when beach managers, who are far more than tractor jockeys, gather to compare notes about their profession. Simmons and his colleagues trade knowledge on issues such as coastal geology, weather patterns and tidal cycles.

Last week, about 40 beach managers and coastal scientists from throughout Southern California met at Pepperdine University in Malibu to discuss a touchy subject: Can beach maintenance be done in a way that accommodates people and wildlife?

Beach grooming – dragging rakes and other heavy equipment across the sand to clear away kelp and debris – radically disturbs the natural ecosystem. It removes food sources important to birds, fish and an array of tiny creatures that inhabit the shoreline.

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