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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