Opinions vary widely on value of beach renourishment
Community involvement also plays a crucial role in ensuring these projects get done, he added.
“Folks decide to start petitioning their local government for assistance because they chronically find themselves in a position of being fearful for the impacts of the upcoming hurricane season,” Revord said. “If there was no need or want from the community, I would suspect that projects would not come up, because they’re quite expensive.”
In contrast, Indian Riverkeeper Mike Conner disputes the value of this practice. It’s no more than a “temporary Band-Aid” that sends taxpayer money “out to sea,” he said.
“They do it again and again and again with material that doesn’t stay there,” Conner said. “The beach will come back given the chance … It’s a high-energy, dynamic ecosystem.”
In the past decade, Indian River and Martin counties combined have spent about $91.4 million in federal, state and county funds on these projects — about $42.7 million and $48.7 million, respectively. St. Lucie County did not provide data requested by TCPalm.
In St. Lucie, the most recent beach renourishment project, which stretches 3.4 miles north from the Martin County line, consists of replenishing roughly 400,000 cubic yards of sand, Revord said. It’s about halfway complete.
Ecological benefits of beach projects
Beach renourishment can have a positive ecological effect, specifically for preserving nesting habitat for various species, according to Kendra Cope, executive director of the nonprofit Coastal Connections. The organization focuses on protecting coastal habitats for sea turtle survival.
“You actually enhance or provide an enhanced nesting beach for shore birds, beach mice, sea turtles, critically endangered vegetation. All of these different things need that sandy beach to survive,” Cope said.
These projects generally are “the best tool in the tool box,” according to Martin County Deputy County Administrator Don Donaldson, who also is a coastal engineer, director of the Florida Shore and Beach Preservation Association and a Florida Inland Navigation District commissioner.
“Under the current rate of sea-level rise and current, increasing storm activities, they are a sustainable practice,” he said. “I think they work.”