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FSBPA Hosts 30th Annual National Conference on Beach Preservation Technology

Katherine Brutsche from the Coastal Hydraulics Laboratory, ERDC, with students who received scholarships to attend the conference: Corey Aitken, William Warren, Madeline Rubio, and Thomas Shahan all under the tutelage of Dr. Tiffany Roberts Briggs of Florida Atlantic University. The student scholarship opportunities were sponsored by Coastal Engineering Consultants who presented the first prize to William Warren.

Katherine Brutsche from the Coastal Hydraulics Laboratory, ERDC, with students who received scholarships to attend the conference: Corey Aitken, William Warren, Madeline Rubio, and Thomas Shahan all under the tutelage of Dr. Tiffany Roberts Briggs of Florida Atlantic University. The student scholarship opportunities were sponsored by Coastal Engineering Consultants who presented the first prize to William Warren.

Jacqueline A. Larson, executive director of the Florida Shore & Beach Preservation Association.

Organized by the Florida Shore & Beach Preservation Association (FSBPA), the annual national conference on Beach Preservation Technology was held February 8 to 10 on Hutchinson Island at the Marriott in Stuart, Florida. With some 250 attendees who included engineers, scientists, representatives of state and federal agencies, such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the State Natural Resource and Environmental Protection Agencies as well as academic researchers, surveyors, the dredging industry and coastal residents, the presentations were wide ranging and the discussions as well.

What is the Florida Shore & Beach Preservation Association? According to Jacqueline A. Larson, its executive director, “Sixty years ago, in 1957, a group of local government and university leaders in Florida were growing more and more concerned about the problem of beach erosion that had virtually destroyed important resort beaches such as Miami Beach. To find out what they could do, some 37 delegates came together to tackle the challenge. The result was the formation of the Florida Shore & Beach Preservation Association. This group of pioneers recognized that erosion was a statewide problem that couldn't be handled by individual cities and counties alone but that collectively they could make significant progress. And they have.”

Dr. Kevin Bodge of Olsen Associates Inc., a long time supporter of annual conference on beach preservation technology, welcomed conference attendees.

FSBPA’s advocacy over the years has centered on protecting beaches and dunes, promoting the importance of healthy beaches for tourism and storm damage reduction, and leading the charge to secure state cost-share in support of local government efforts to address critically eroded beaches. The association organizes two conferences a year. One is the Florida Shore & Beach Preservation Association Annual Conference, which will be held this year from September 27 to 29 at the Westin Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The other is the Tech Conference, which just took place in early February on Hutchison Island. Larson adds, “The next Tech Conference is already scheduled for February 7-9, 2018, at the Edgewater Beach & Golf Resort in Panama City Beach, Florida. Mark your calendars!”

 As Dr. Kevin Bodge of Olsen Associates Inc., also pointed out, “This is also the 30th anniversary of this FSBPA national conference.” Bodge was on the very first panel to organize this national conference three decades ago, and emphasized: “The annual Beach Preservation Technology Conference is an invaluable opportunity for the close community of people involved with beach management in the southeast United States – Florida in particular – to get caught up with development, permitting, environmental and physical monitoring, construction, funding, and performance of contemporary shore protection and beach improvement projects. It is always fascinating to me that such a relatively small community – several hundred persons – is responsible for the complex and financially huge assignment of restoring and managing the more or less greatest physical, recreational and fiscal resource that we have in the Florida area – sandy beaches.”  

 Besides the great attendance, Jackie Larson was pleased to report that “This year’s Technical Conference attracted some 25 sponsors, including Ferreira Construction, Great Lakes Dredge & Dock, Manson Construction, Norfolk Dredging, Moffatt & Nichol, Taylor Engineering and Weeks Marine as well as Dredging Contractors of America.   

 “The objectives of the Tech Conference are always to present the latest innovations in beach preservation technology, research, monitoring, and other relevant coastal issues. It provides a venue where a once a year academic, scientific and coastal design professionals have the opportunity to discuss the technical side of coastal protection issues and inform decision-makers at all levels of government who make funding and regulatory decisions.”

Highlights of this year’s conference featured presentations that included confronting the damage of Hurricane Matthew, its assessment and responses; the role of dunes in coastal preservation; forecasting storms and coastal flooding; surveying and modeling innovations in coastal mapping and sand monitoring techniques; beach nourishment and inlet sand bypassing projects; coastal restoration and regulation of seagrasses, hardbottom, habitat monitoring and the Miami Harbor Expansion Project. 

The opening session on Wednesday, February 8, was kicked off by a welcome from 

Martin County Commissioner Ed Ciampi and Dr. Bodge and was followed by a full roster of presentations on hurricane issues: the science of forecasting hurricanes was discussed by a delegate from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Weather Service in Miami; a presentation on FEMA’s Coastal Hazard Mapping and what it is doing to increase flood risk communication was given by an engineering consultant from private industry; and a historical perspective of hurricanes, with special emphasis on the 2016 hurricane season was given by engineering consultants from private industry. Representatives from Florida’s Division of Water Resource Management, Department of Environmental Protection, Tallahassee, also gave their views of the impact of Hurricane Matthew on Florida’s Atlantic Coast, with additional presentations from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on its responses, especially to the impacts of Hurricane Matthew on Jacksonville Beaches. Two separate papers from scientists at the Ocean Engineering Department of the United States Naval Academy, in Annapolis, Maryland, addressed the difficulties of Nuisance Flooding and the “King Tide Phenomenon” and adaptation to sea level rise. 

The following day was perhaps the busiest, with two concurrent sessions. And while storm restoration efforts to shorelines continued to be a high priority, a wide range of subjects was on the agenda: from the success of seagrass mitigation to coastal restoration programs and building resilience through dunes to the development of a decision support tool to reduce sea turtle dredging entrainment risks and a web application for siting nearshore placement areas of dredged sediment. From the Miami Beach Hotspot Project Summer 2016 to the renourishment of Pensacola Beach, to the sand tracer study in the Fort Pierce Inlet, every corner of the state of Florida seemed to have an important project and research going on. Significantly papers on the science behind the Miami Harbor Dredging Project as well as the Miami Harbor artificial reef mitigation were presented. And the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, Vicksburg, Mississippi, whose studies are crucial to the dredging industry, was well represented. The final day and closing session wrapped up a high-tech, high quality three-day conference.  

Worthy of mention as well, when one looks to the future of shore and coastal protection and preservation, are the student scholarships that allow younger people in related professions to attend the meeting. One student award was a $525 scholarship for travel and other expenses to the Tech Conference and included a conference registration waiver. Three additional students received a registration waiver to the conference. Poster presentations were required by the selected students.

Time for networking at a welcome reception and game night at the end of day one, as well as professional exchange breaks in between the many high level sessions each day, was well appreciated. As Bodge observed, “The community of interested parties is far-reaching, and each year the conference is reserved on their calendars. It’s an opportunity  to learn from one another, gain interdisciplinary knowledge, coordinate activities, discover new technologies, and often accomplish more in a few minutes’ hallway discussion with one another than can be otherwise completed through months of email and correspondence.”  

Jackie Larson summarized the importance of the event: “All counties in Florida are battling the same issues and the beauty of this conference is that just about every county in Florida is represented here. It is great that dredging companies, consultants and various state and federal government agencies can all get together to confront the questions facing everyone who lives along a coast. Florida is a leader in this area, and this conference presents such a learning opportunity for all of us.” 

The full program is available at the FSBPA website www.fsbpa.com/techconference.html.

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