The American Shore and Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA) has chosen five projects for its annual list of the nation’s best restored beaches. This year’s list provides representation from both the west and east coasts and the Great Lakes of the U.S. The 2011 winners are: Isle of Palms South Carolina; Menauhant Beach Massachusetts; Miami Beach Florida; Moonlight Beach California; and Presque Isle Pennsylvania.
ASBPA created the Best Restored Beach award as a way of highlighting the value of restored beaches.
“As Americans flock to our nation’s coastline during the beach season most don’t even realize they may be enjoying a restored beach” said Simmons who is mayor of Caswell Beach North Carolina. “Coastal communities have restored more than 370 beaches in the United States including such iconic beaches as Jones Beach in New York Ocean City in Maryland Virginia Beach Miami Beach Galveston Island in Texas and Waikiki Beach in Hawaii.”
For the past 40 years beach restoration has been the preferred method of shore protection in coastal communities. Beach restoration is the process of placing beach-quality sand on dwindling beaches to reverse or offset the effects of erosion.
Why We Restore Beaches
The three main reasons for restoration are: storm protection: a wide sandy beach helps separate storm waves from upland structures and infrastructure; habitat restoration: numerous species rely on wide healthy beaches as a place to live feed and nest and recreation: America’s beaches have twice as many visitors annually as all of America’s national parks combined. Every year there are more than two billion visitors to America’s beaches. In 2007 beaches contributed $322 billion to America’s economy. For every dollar the federal government spends on beach nourishment it gets an estimated $320 back in tax revenues. Well over half of the nation’s gross domestic product ($7.9 trillion) is generated in 673 counties along the oceans and Great Lakes according to NOAA’s National Ocean Economics Program.
To enter the Best Restored Beach competition coastal communities nominated their projects for consideration and an independent panel of coastal managers and scientists selected the winners. Judging was based on three criteria: the economic and ecological benefits the beach brings to its community; the short- and long term success of the restoration project; and the challenges each community overcame during the course of the project.
The following are comments by judges concerning the honored beaches.
Isle of Palms South Carolina Beach Restoration Project
The Isle of Palms is a non-federally-funded beach restoration project completed in 2008 at a cost of $8.4 million. The people of the Isles of Palms community paid 84 percent of the project cost while the county and state provided the balance of the funding. The project restored 10200 linear feet of beach by placing more than 847000 cubic yards of sand on the beach. The project was implemented in response to severe erosion along a three-mile section of beach at the northeastern end of the island. Isle of Palms is a seven-mile-long drumstick barrier island which experiences periodic events from Dewees Inlet. Shoal bypassing is an episodic process of sandbar migration from the inlet shoals to the beach. A severe storm in 2006 resulted in loss of hundreds of feet of beach along a densely developed segment of shoreline. Emergency sandbags were placed by private entities to protect nearly $1 billion worth of property.
The restoration plan built on studies of the island and Dewees Inlet and sought to incorporate beach nourishment and the ongoing effects of shoal bypassing. The project included a search for an offshore borrow area confirmation of sediment quality formulation of a nourishment plan for the three highest erosion areas and all permitting. Construction included removal of sandbags in close coordination with fill placement so that upland properties remained protected.
After the restoration project was completed the average dry-beach width after nourishment was ~300 feet which greatly exceeds the width of a typical South Carolina beach.
Menauhant Beach Falmouth Massachusetts Beach and Dune Restoration Project
The Menauhant beach and dune restoration project was completed in the fall of 2008. Using sand from a federally funded and sponsored project to improve a nearby navigation channel a municipal public beach restoration project was completed. The restoration reduced potential for barrier overwash and storm damage; improved and increased intertidal habitat; improved public access to the shores and waters of Vineyard Sound; and enhanced recreational use at the beach.
The project shows that with cooperation among local state and federal authorities regional sediment management can provide a balanced and sustainable source of sediments for restoration projects. More than 20000 cubic yards of clean sand dredged during a federal project that created a better navigation channel into Great Harbor off Woods Hole Massachusetts was used to restore approximately 1900 linear feet of Menauhant Beach which is about five miles away from the dredge site by sea. Once delivered to the beach site the sand was used to substantially raise and broaden existing dunes and to construct new dunes in areas that were previously exposed to Vineyard Sound. Beach slopes were constructed to provide habitat for foraging shorebirds. Volunteers planted beach grass on all dune areas. Sand fencing was installed around the completed restoration to better control foot traffic and promote accretion of wind-blown material.
Miami Beach Florida; Miami–Dade County Beach Erosion Control and Hurricane Surge Protection Project
The Miami Beach restoration project is a federally sponsored project with cost sharing for the initial and subsequent re-nourishment projects between federal state and local partners. The beach nourishment restored and constructed a 10.5-mile protective beach fill extending from Government Cut through Haulover Beach Park.
The initial project was constructed from 1976 to 1981 at a cost of approximately $64 million and has revitalized the economy of the Miami Beach area. The restoration plan was developed to address severe beach erosion along the Miami-Dade County shoreline and the associated economic and social impacts to the community. The project originally included a storm protection berm planted with native dune vegetation. In early 2000 the city initiated a $3 million dune restoration and enhancement program to remove exotic nuisance plant species; re-vegetate the dunes with native species; replace protective fencing adjacent to the dunes; and install protective signage. The city of Miami Beach is an intensely developed urban environment. However the city has been able to balance the needs for recreation and habitat through the restoration process.
Miami Beach is the nesting habitat for endangered sea turtles butterflies and several unique dune vegetation species. The city realizes the protection and enhancement of natural resources is closely linked to preservation of its quality of life and the stability of its tourism-based economy.
Moonlight Beach Encinitas California Beach Restoration Project
This wide sandy beach offers swimming surfing and fishing. Facilities include volleyball and tennis courts recreational equipment rentals and a snack bar. The “moonlight” in the name of this beach comes from the fact that local residents used to come to the area for midnight picnics in the early 1900s. It is 26 miles north of San Diego. Moonlight Beach is a public/private partnership beach restoration project a few blocks west of downtown Encinitas a location that makes it the most heavily used beach within the city with an estimated 600000 annual visitors. Moonlight Beach is the crown jewel of Encinitas due to free parking easy accessibility lifeguard services volleyball courts tot lot and fire rings.
The Moonlight Beach restoration project was actually two “opportunistic” beach nourishment projects completed by the city of Encinitas. The beach restoration project used 6000 cubic yards of sand from an upland development and from the routine dry weather maintenance of the city’s detention basins. The sand from these two projects was placed along an approximately 1100-foot-long and 50-foot-wide segment of Moonlight Beach and was delivered to the beach via truck for both projects. The material was placed on the beach as a low tide linear mound which allowed the material to be reworked and redistributed by the daily tidal cycle. This was an important component of the project since the color of the upland material is typically different than that of the native beach.
The city was able to finance the project (which was done between March 2010 and March 2011) with public/private funds. The private developer agreed to pay the hauling cost while the city obtained the permits testing and approvals. For the detention basin project the city was able to reduce the cost of annual maintenance by hauling to a local beach vs. hauling to a landfill. The combination of forward thinking by the city and the cost-sharing between the public and private sectors has made this a unique project.
Presque Isle Peninsula Erie Pennsylvania Beach and Dune Restoration Project
The Presque Isle Peninsula is a 6.7-mile long 3200-acre spit forming one of the finest natural Great Lakes harbors which attracts international attention. To preserve the peninsula Congress authorized in 1986 the construction of 58 offshore rubble-mound breakwaters and initial beach restoration. The breakwaters constructed parallel to the shore mimic nature and act as a barrier reef.
In 1989 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (working with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources as the local sponsor) entered into a partnership to restore the fragile ecosystem and maintain the park. The restoration project has placed a total of 584713 cubic yards of sand on the beach between 1993 and 2010 and has reinvigorated the fragile ecosystem that supports many endangered species.
The Presque Isle restoration project is a prime example of how the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania working together have preserved an important resource.
See the related article “Spotlight on Presque Isle” for more information.