EESC 230 Post #3 – beach erosion

A topic that I found interesting this past week in class was one that I came across when we split into different groups to work on different scenarios taking place in Florida. My group was responsible for figuring out how to build a hotel in Florida based on where Highway A1A was situated. In Miami, the resorts, bars, and other attractions are located right on the beach front with barely any buffer separating the infrastructures and the ocean. The opposite is the case in Fort Lauderdale where highway A1A acts as a slight buffer between the closest properties to the ocean and the ocean itself. The problem for our group to tackle was whether or not we wanted to build a resort right against the water, say in Miami, or a little ways behind the highway, like in Fort Lauderdale. The question that was raised was what solution would decrease beach erosion while simultaneously increasing profit. This topic interested me because I was already kind of familiar with the problem of beach erosion

I’ve been going to the Outer Banks every summer since I was born, so I’ve been able to witnessed first had how the beaches there have changed. The design of the beaches in the Outer Banks is very similar to that of Miami, with properties all along the shore line and a main road directly behind these properties. In recent years, more and more homes have been destroyed due to an increased number of hurricanes. The state of North Carolina has been talking about pumping sand onto the beach in order to buffer the erosion from occuring while simultaneously saving pilings of very important bridges. There is still debate, however, of whether not pumping of sand needs to occur along all of the beaches or just on the inward parts of the island.Here is an article that discusses how policy on pumping sand is changing to lean more towards protecting the environment rather than protecting people’s investments and properties. Here is an article that refers to the beginnings of dredging sand in order to support the Bonner Bridge.

Another beach, a little closer to home, that resembles one discussed in class is Virginia Beach. Virginia Beach mirrors Fort Lauderdale in some ways in regards to there being no property on the shoreline. However, instead of having a highway act as a buffer (like in Florida), Virginia Beach has a boardwalk. Thousands of tourists flock to Virginia Beach in the summertime, thus maintenance of the beaches during the off season is key in keeping revenue for the city up. The pumping of this sand is supposed to be apart of a “beach nourishment” which will act as a buffer to the sea. This part of the beach nourishment project, however, is sort of a double edged sword because it will be protecting properties and keeping tourist dollars high but the process requires bulldozers to be on the beach for extended amounts of time in addition to unfamiliar sand being added to a very delicate ecosystem. Here is an article that discusses the plans for the beach nourishment including the steps as well as who’s funding it and what it entails.

The protection of beaches is very important because the coast is not only where over 40% of the US population is but also where numerous habitats live. In the future, I’m hoping there can be compromises that can attend to the needs of the populations among the beach, both human and non-human.

The video above shows bulldozers in Virginia Beach pumping sand back into the area in order to “replenish” it and get it ready for the upcoming tourist season.

Sarah Campbell

10 thoughts on “EESC 230 Post #3 – beach erosion

  1. Sarah C. says:

    I’m very torn between what should be done about this situation. On one hand, I can see why people would be upset that the government has no regards for their properties but I can also see why it’s important to stop building on these fragile beaches. I’m hoping that they might be able to pass something that will stop future building of homes while simultaneously protecting the ones already built.

  2. Dr. Szulczewski says:

    While many of us choose the long-term, environmental management strategy, it’s easy to understand why so many homeowners get very upset when, to their eyes, their government stands by as their property is destroyed and tourism declines. There are no easy choices that will please everyone.

  3. msteele2 says:

    Very good post Sarah! I really enjoyed reading more about the beach erosion through your post because I too have gone to the Outer Banks every year since I was born and I also love beaches. I have also lived in Virginia my whole life and I didn’t know until your post that they replenish the sand at VA beach every year for the next tourist season, I found that to be very interesting. And I agree with you that I hope we can come up with a solution for both humans and non humans.

  4. Savannah says:

    I also stay in Outer Banks, mostly every summer. Naturally, each and every year I see a major difference in how the beach has changed. The house I usually stay in was very damaged, and it’s on the sound side. So you can definitely say that the hurricanes create much damage down there. At first, I believe adding sand is kind of a good idea for houses and tourists, etc. But it would also cause an imbalance with the local biodiversity. It’s a toss-up; there are various pros and cons.

  5. lukedanielschneider says:

    I also thought this was an interesting subject and the comparisons you made with more local beaches helped me with a frame of reference. Last semester I did an independent study concerning U.S. cities at risk of flooding due to sea-level rise. During this independent study I read a paper that used GIS to display elevation data of major cities on the east coast (VA Beach and Miami included). I’ll have to find the paper and post it, but I recall a large percentage (maybe more than half) of VA Beach and Miami are less than 5 meters above sea-level. If you look at projected sea-level rise and factor in the increasing intensity of weather over the next century, it does not look good for any of our cities on the east coast.

  6. mtawes says:

    I didn’t know that the erosion in the Outer Banks had gotten so bad that they are considering pumping in sand to stop it. I’m split on if they should precede. If they do put in new sand it would save the beaches and houses, keeping tourism in North Carolina up. On the other hand, I remember learning in class that if you use the wrong type of sand, it can actually be harmful for the environment. The sad part is that if humans had been smarter about the environment in the Outer Banks, we wouldn’t be facing this problem.

  7. cmccartney says:

    Coastal ecosystems are extremely fragile, and I really agree with the points you made on them. Even though pumping the sand is ideal for buffering the area to prevent erosion, we have seen what messing with the balance can do and it is just as likely that it will cause irreversible damage to towns that need the tourist revenue. It will be interesting to see how other coastal cities choose to approach this problem if pumping of sand is proven to be ultimately harmful.

  8. hsomers says:

    I think this issue is really interesting but especially really complex. Similar to you, my family and I have been going to the beach every summer since I can remember and most of the time issues like beach erosion don’t come up when you’re there. It’s complicated because development in these areas contributes to erosion but most people don’t see it that way. Development is just seen as a source of revenue but there are always hidden consequences to changing a natural landscape like that. That’s also the case with the sand replenishment in your video. It’s a situation where the intent is good but, as we’ve learned about in class, there are hidden consequences because the sand that is used is often foreign to the biodiversity there.

  9. dvanzant says:

    You’re right the protection of our beaches is very important. I didn’t even realize 40% of our population lives on the coast, which makes the issue all the more important. Hopefully when it comes down to it, we will realize protecting the environment is much more important that protecting our investments and properties.

  10. mwagner2 says:

    This post reminds me a lot about the Oceanography course I took at UMW. I remember Dr. Tibert telling us that when big beach cities, such as VA Beach, pumps sands to restore the beach line that is actually negatively effects the coast. This is because we are not allowing nature to do its coarse, which is take the sand away. Yes, the beach line is slowing receding toward the land, but that is simply the pattern of the water and when we put sand back in its place then we are disrupting that natural pattern.

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