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Shoreline Protection
 

Florida Has Lots of Shoreline
Florida's coastline attracts millions of residents and tourists every year for sunbathing and swimming. Wide beaches not only exist for our enjoyment, they are one of our best defenses against property damage caused by winter storms and hurricanes. They also serve as nesting habitats for several species of sea turtles. However, because of man's intervention in natural processes, most of our beaches are eroding.

What is Beach Erosion?
A beach erodes when the rate at which sand is supplied to the shore is less than the rate at which the natural forces such as winds, waves, and rip currents are removing it from the shore. Man has greatly influenced the rate at which erosion occurs by allowing the natural shoreline to be altered. The deepening and widening of inlets and the placement of coastal and shore protective structures disrupt the natural movement of sand on and off the beach and along the coast. Rising sea level and diminishing sand supplies have also contributed to beach erosion along much of Florida's Beach coastline.

What is the answer?
The Florida Department of Environmental Resources Management (ERM) is responsible for consulting beach and dune restoration projects using environmentally sensitive and cost-effective methods. The department also keeps current with the latest technology in coastal erosion control, develops ordinances, maintains regulatory programs, and sponsors educational activities.

The department protects the natural functioning of the beach / dune systems and encourages restoration of damaged beach and dunes along our shoreline. Ordinances have been implemented to protect the beaches and dunes by regulating the removal of beach sand, reducing the environmental impacts of coastal construction, encouraging the removal of non-native vegetation and providing guidelines for the alteration of native vegetation. The department also encourages improved sand management practices at inlets.

Beach nourishment is the most natural solution to restoring a beach. The process consists of pumping or trucking sand onto the beach and rebuilding the shoreline and near shore zones that have been lost to erosion. This procedure adds sand to a depleted sediment budget, provides a wide beach that is aesthetically pleasing, offers a nesting area for sea turtles, and helps to naturally dissipate erosive storm wave energy.

Some nourished beaches act as "feeder beaches." They are designed to not only rebuild the beach along which the sand is placed, but also to "feed" sand to adjacent beaches to stabilize their shoreline.

The source of beach fill may be inlet shoals or other offshore sediment deposits. Occasionally, beach quality sand is obtained from upland sites on barrier islands or other inland sources. The two most common placement techniques are dredging and trucking. Dredging involves hydraulically pumping the sand through a pipe, discharging it on the beach, and spreading it with a bulldozer.

 

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Inlet Management
Sand naturally moves along out coast in both a northerly and southerly direction depending on the wave climate. however, the overall net drift of sand is to the south. The natural movement of sand is disrupted at man-made and man-altered inlets. Sand becomes trapped either up drift of, offshore of, or inside inlets instead of being transported naturally along the shore. Man-altered natural inlets are stabilized by jetties and routinely dredged to maintain navigational depth. Lake Worth (Palm Beach) Inlet and South Lake Worth (Boynton) Inlet are man-made inlets with sand transfer plants which bypass sand from north to south across the inlets. Palm Beach County, in south Florida, encourages the development and implementation of sand management plans at inlets to maintain a more natural movement of sand along the shore.

Dune Restoration and Revegetation
Dunes are a backshore feature of the coastal system that provide additional sand to the beach during storms.

Natural dunes are built by the wind, which blows sand into vegetated areas behind the beach. Coastal vegetation traps the sand and the dune builds up. Sand accumulating in the dune is held together by the roots and foliage of plants that grow on the dune. Sea oats and sea grapes are excellent dune stabilizers because of their extensive root systems and salt tolerance. These plants form the basis of a highly specialized and rapidly disappearing ecosystem call the coastal strand.

What Can You Do?

  • Use dune walkovers whenever possible. Pedestrian traffic over dunes, including dragging boats and bikes across the dune, causes serious erosion.
  • Leave seaweed in place to begin the beach building cycle and to fertilize the beaches and dunes. Support beach clean-up campaigns. Limit use of mechanical beach cleaning equipment.
  • Encourage the removal of exotic plants in the dune, and allow native plants to fully mature.
  • Support beach and dune restoration projects and sand management of inlets.
  • Promote a rational coastal zone management policy to help save our Florida coastline for generations to come.

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