State of the Beach/State Reports/FL/Beach Fill

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Florida Ratings
Indicator Type Information Status
Beach Access85
Water Quality85
Beach Erosion9-
Erosion Response-5
Beach Fill7-
Shoreline Structures5 4
Beach Ecology4-
Surfing Areas56
Website8-


Policies

State, Territory, and Commonwealth Beach Nourishment Programs, A National Overview (NOAA, March 2000) provides the following information:

"Policy Citation and Description

Fla. Stat. ch. 161.041. Permits required. A coastal construction permit is required for any physical activity undertaken specifically for shore protection purposes or artificial nourishments.

Fla. Stat. ch. 161.082. Review of innovative technologies for beach nourishment. The department is directed to periodically review innovative technologies for beach nourishment and, on a limited basis authorize, through the permitting process, experimental projects that are alternatives to traditional dredge and fill projects to determine the most effective and less costly techniques for beach Nourishment.

Fla. Stat. ch. 161.088. Declaration of public policy respecting beach erosion control and beach restoration and nourishment projects.

Fla. Stat. ch. 161.101. State and local participation in authorized projects and studies relating to beach management and erosion control.

Fla. Stat. ch. 161.091. Beach management; funding; repair; and maintenance strategy. Ecosystem Management and Restoration Trust Fund is used to carry out the proper state responsibilities in a long-range statewide beach management plan for erosion control; beach preservation, restoration, and nourishment; and storm and hurricane protection. The department strategy includes: (a) Maximizing the infusion of beach-quality sand into the system; (b) Extending the life of beach nourishment projects and reducing the frequency of Nourishment; and, (c) Promoting inlet sand bypassing to replicate the natural flow of sand interrupted by inlets and ports.

Fla. Stat. ch. 161.141. Property rights of state and private upland owners in beach restoration project areas. If an authorized beach restoration, beach nourishment, and erosion control project cannot reasonably be accomplished without the taking of private property, the taking must be made by the requesting authority by eminent domain proceedings.

Fla. Stat. ch. 161.142. Declaration of public policy relating to improved navigation inlets. While there is a need for maintaining navigation inlets, inlets alter the natural drift of beach-quality sand resources, which often results in these sand resources being deposited around shallow outer-bar areas instead of providing natural nourishment to the downdrift beaches. Therefore: (a) All construction and maintenance dredging of beach-quality sand should be placed on the downdrift beaches; or, if placed elsewhere, an equivalent quality and quantity of sand from an alternate location should be placed on the downdrift beaches; (b) On an average annual basis, a quantity of sand should be placed on the downdrift beaches equal to the natural net annual longshore sediment transport.

Related Policies

Dredge and Fill Regulations

Dredging and filling activities are regulated under Fla. Admin. Code. R. 62.312-0.80.

Sand Scraping/Dune Reshaping Regulations

Fla. Admin. Code Ann. r. 62B-33.003. No person shall conduct any excavation seaward of the coastal construction control line or 50-foot setback except as provided in the Act and this Chapter. No person shall remove any beach material, or otherwise alter existing ground elevations, drive any vehicle on, over, or across any sand dune or the vegetation growing thereon, seaward of the coastal construction control line or 50- foot setback except as provided in the Act or this Chapter, or as otherwise provided by law.

Dune Creation/Restoration Regulations

Fla. Stat. ch. 161.041. Permits required. A coastal construction permit is required for any physical activity undertaken specifically for shore protection purposes or artificial nourishments.

Public Access Regulations

Fla. Stat. ch. 161.55. Public Access. Development or construction can not interfere with public access unless a comparable alternative accessway is provided.

Beach Nourishment Funding Program

Yes, there is state funding for beach nourishment.

Fla. Stat. ch. 161.091. The Ecosystem Management & Restoration Trust Fund provides funding for beach preservation, restoration and nourishment.

Fla. Stat. ch. 161.101. State and local participation in authorized projects and studies relating to beach management and erosion control. The state, through the department, shall determine those beaches which are critically eroding and in need of restoration and nourishment and may authorize appropriations to pay up to 75 percent of the actual costs for restoring and renourishing a critically eroded beach. The local government in which the beach is located shall be responsible for the balance of such costs.

Amount of State Funding

Fla. Stat. ch. 161.091. The Ecosystem Management & Restoration Trust Fund is a continuing funding mechanism for preservation and repair of the state’s beaches: $10 million in fiscal year 1998-1999; $20 million in fiscal year 1999-2000; $30 million in fiscal year 2000-2001 and each fiscal year thereafter.

Cost Share Requirements

Fla. Stat. ch. 161.101. It is the intent of the Legislature to cost-share projects equally between the state and local sponsors."

General Description of Funding

According to the Florida Shore and Beach Preservation Association, over half of all recent beach spending in the state was financed from local funds. Florida uses a number of mechanisms to finance beach fill projects. State law requires that at least $30 million of revenues from Florida’s real estate documentary stamp tax must go for beach nourishment projects and in many years the state funds more than the required minimum (Flack, 2006). During the first few years of Governor Rick Scott's administration he called for $25 million per year in state spending on beach fill projects. In early 2017 Governor Scott upped that request to $50 million. More on this.

Florida state law also requires that half of the non-federal funding for a nourishment project must come from local sources. In cases where state land is involved, the state share is higher (as much as 100 percent) and in some smaller projects the local share is higher. In Florida, the local share of these projects is, in fact, higher than the state share and considerably higher than the federal share.

In Florida, the primary means of financing the local share is the tourist development tax. In Florida, typically from one to three percent of the tax is dedicated to beach nourishment. The typical tourist development tax (levied by individual counties) is three percent. However, Florida also levies a six percent state sales tax on hotel occupancy and some counties also add on up to a one percent local discretionary tax, so the effective tax on tourists is generally nine to ten percent.

In some parts of Florida, voters have also approved a special assessment on property (as part of the property tax). These assessments are generally higher for property closer to the beach and lower for property farther away. One advantage of these assessments is that bonds can be issued against them so that a nourishment project can proceed sooner than would be possible with other taxes, where one must typically wait until the money has been collected.

Policy and Program Discussion

Recognizing the importance of the state's beaches, the Florida legislature in 1986 adopted a posture of protecting and restoring the state's beaches through a comprehensive beach management planning program. Under the program, the Department of Environmental Protection's Bureau of Beaches and Coastal Systems evaluates beach erosion problems throughout the state, seeking viable solutions. The primary vehicle for implementing the beach management planning recommendations is the Florida Beach Erosion Control Program, established for the purpose of working in concert with local, state and federal governmental entities to achieve the protection, preservation and restoration of the coastal sandy beach resources of the state. Under the program, financial assistance in an amount up to 50% of project costs is available to Florida's county and municipal governments, community development districts, and special taxing districts, for shore protection and preservation activities located on the Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic Ocean, or Straits of Florida. Through the fiscal year 1997, over $190 million was appropriated by the legislature for beach erosion control activities.

One way to restore eroded beaches is through beach fill. In a typical beach fill project, sand is collected from an offshore location by a dredge and is piped onto the beach. A slurry of sand and water exits the pipe on the beach; once the water drains away, only sand is left behind. Bulldozers move this new sand until the beach matches the design profile. Beach fill projects are often used to add sand to a system which has been starved by the altered inlets. The projects can provide storm protection benefits for upland properties, and typically have less coastal impacts than the use of shoreline armoring.

Several important environmental criteria apply to beach fill projects. The criteria are contained within the rules. Generally, water quality standards must be met; damage to hard bottoms and seagrasses must be avoided, or minimized and mitigated for; the sand placed must be compatible with the natural beach; and manatee, sea turtle, and nesting shorebird windows and management practices must be implemented.

If projects are done during nesting season or if an incompatible sand supply is used, then there can be negative ecological impacts. On the other hand, if the projects are done with attention to environmental and ecological concerns, they can also restore shorebird and marine turtle habitat. Monitoring includes both physical (width of beach) and biological (ecological parameters) such as planform changes, water quality, nearshore hard bottom and seagrass areas, sea turtles, manatee, shorebirds, etc.[1] This information and much more may be found at the FDEP's Beach Erosion Control Program Website, which provides information on beach fill programs in Florida. Broward County has information regarding beach fill projects, costs and potential impacts.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) has developed a multi-year repair and maintenance strategy to carry out the proper state responsibilities of a comprehensive, long-range, statewide program of beach erosion control; beach preservation, restoration, and nourishment; and storm and hurricane protection. The principles of this strategy are to:

  • Encourage regional approaches to ensure the geographic coordination and sequencing of prioritized projects;
  • Reduce equipment mobilization and demobilization costs;
  • Maximize the infusion of beach-quality sand into the system;
  • Extend the life of beach nourishment projects and reduces the frequency of nourishment;
  • Promote inlet sand bypassing to replicate the natural flow of sand interrupted by improved, modified or altered inlets and ports; and
  • Implement those projects that contribute most significantly to addressing the state’s beach erosion problems.


The Strategic Beach Management Plan (SBMP) documents the specific strategies for constructive actions at inlets and critically eroded beaches consistent with these principles. Projects must have a clearly identifiable beach management benefit consistent with the SBMP; however, proposed strategies developed by FDEP and local government sponsors in the future are still eligible for state funding assistance even if absent from the current SBMP. Resources and opportunities to achieve the strategic goals of the program are discussed in the context of a sub-region defined by the boundaries of distinct coastal littoral processes. In addition, the SBMP provides a summary of previous actions taken to address beach erosion within each sub-region.

In 2012, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Bureau of Beaches and Coastal Systems initiated a pilot project designed to take a regional approach to permitting beach nourishment and inlet management. Currently, the department’s beach nourishment efforts are permitted on a project-by-project basis. This pilot project includes about 15 miles of shoreline and stretches across several public and private boundary lines from the Lake Worth/Palm Beach Inlet to the South Lake Worth/Boynton Inlet in Palm Beach County. The department will work with local governments and other groups in a stakeholder-driven process to develop a cooperative agreement to managing this stretch of shoreline, as a whole. A Beach Management Agreement (BMA) draft document was added to the website in early 2013.

The November 1999 document Recommended Beach Nourishment Guidelines for the State of Florida and Unresolved Related Issues is available online.

Permit conditions for beach fill projects require monitoring that includes ecological parameters.

All fill projects using state funding are required to have public access (Rule 62B-36).

The laws or regulations guiding beach fill include Chapters 161, 253, 373 and 403, Florida Statutes and Chapters 62B-41, 49 and 36 of the Florida Administrative Code.

The following information regarding Regional Sediment Management in the northern Gulf of Mexico can be found on the website of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile District:

"In the past, the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has focused on managing sand at coastal projects on a project-by-project basis. This approach to sand management may not adequately consider the impact of individual projects on down drift projects. To address this issue, the USACE has initiated efforts to assess the benefits of managing sediment resources as a regional scale resource rather than a localized project resource. The concept of Regional Sediment Management (RSM) is a result of the 67th meeting of the Coastal Engineering Research Board (CERB) held in May 1998.

In October 1999, the US Army Engineer District, Mobile (SAM), initiated the USACE Northern Gulf of Mexico Regional Sediment Management Demonstration Program. The goal of the demonstration program is to change the paradigm of project specific management to focusing on a regional approach in which the USACE as well as state and local agencies stop managing projects and begin "managing the sand." The objectives of the demonstration program are:

  • Implement Regional Sediment Management Practices;
  • Improve Economic Performance by Linking Projects;
  • Development of New Engineering Techniques to Optimize/Conserve Sediment;
  • Determine Bureaucratic Obstacles to Regional Sediment Management; and
  • Manage in Concert with the Environment.


The SAM demonstration region is bounded by the St. Marks River, Florida, to the east and the Pearl River, MS to the west. The region encompasses approximately 375-miles of coastal shoreline including the MS Barrier Islands. The region includes 14 major Federal projects (Panacea Harbor, Carrabelle Harbor, Apalachicola Bay, Port St. Joe Harbor, Panama City Harbor/St. Andrew Bay Entrance, East Pass, Pensacola Pass, Perdido Pass, Mobile Bay Entrance/Dauphin Island, Bayou La Batre, Pascagoula Harbor, Biloxi Harbor, Gulfport Harbor, and Pass Christian Harbor), the Panama City Beach Nourishment project, eight State parks, the Gulf Islands National Seashore, Eglin and Tyndall Air Force Bases, Pensacola Naval Air Station, Naval Station Pascagoula, Keesler Air force Base, Gulfport Naval Sea Bee Base, and the Supervisor of Shipbuilding, Conversion, and Repair, USN Gulf Coast, as well as many cities and counties. To accomplish the RSM goal, it is essential that partnering and coordination with agencies interested in the management of this coastal region be achieved.

The product of the RSM demonstration program is a Regional Sediment Management Plan consisting of a calibrated regional sediment budget, a calibrated numerical regional prediction system, and a regional data management and Geographic Information System. These tools will assist in making management decisions and increase benefits resulting from improved sand management throughout the region."


An article Is Florida's "Beach Re-nourishment" Killing the Beaches? appeared at surfermag.com on July 22, 2010.

An article was posted to naplesnews.com on June 4, 2011 regarding an April 15, 2011 memo from state Department of Environmental Protection that lays out nine new interpretations of rules that “should be implemented immediately” by the DEP’s Bureau of Beaches and Coastal Systems to review permits to add sand to eroding beaches. Among the items covered in the three-page memo are:

  • Less strict calculations to determine whether sand being added to the beach has too much clay or gravel
  • An admonition to permit reviewers to remember, when considering a project’s potential to harm wildlife such as sea turtles, that adding sand to an eroded beach increases wildlife habitat
  • Fewer reviews for dune restoration work above the high water line
  • An order to “Stay Out of the Weeds” and not require detailed planting plans for dune restoration
  • A warning that monitoring plans be “meaningful and useful” or be eliminated
  • A new policy that requires reviewers to cite the specific rule on which they base questions about permit applications


Environmental groups are concerned that the memo represents a “major relaxation” that risks harm to the environment and public health, and that the changes amount to telling developers and local communities to “go forth and do what you want,” according to Florida Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility Director Jerry Phillips.

On July 20, 2011 the Surfrider Foundation Florida Chapters issued a press release applauding and concurring with a letter submitted to DEP by coastal scientists who harshly responded to the Florida DEP's action to suspend key environmental and health protections when rebuilding eroded beaches with dredged materials. This issue received additional press on July 22, 2011.

In early 2017 several bills were introduced to potentially change how Florida manages its beaches and how it prioritizes beach fill projects. More.

Inventory

A listing of beach fill and other erosion control projects that have been proposed and budgeted is available from FDEP Beaches and Control Systems.

Beach Fill data can be found within the Strategic Beach Management Plan (latest update is 5/21/08).
Additional information can be found in permits for specific projects.

An extensive database of beach fill projects - the Beach Erosion Control Project Monitoring Database Information System - was formerly maintained by Florida State University and had a Florida map with links to projects in each county or sub-county region. Each section had a county or area main page, a location map, design parameters, shoreline change plots, volume change plots, hot spots, a performance table and a performance summary. It's not clear what happened to this information, but the database is referenced in FDEP Beaches and Control Systems list of reports.

Summary tables from Economics of Florida's Beaches: The Impact of Beach Restoration (June 2003) provide project-specific and summaries by region of cost information on beach fill projects in Florida since about 1992. Also included are data on the length of beach covered by the project, the disposal volumes and costs for dredging projects.
http://www.dep.state.fl.us/beaches/publications/pdf/phase1.pdf

Florida has attempted to restore beaches since about 1944. Prior to 1994, Florida had 83.4 miles of beaches where at least one fill project occurred. Between 1994 and 1996, Florida added another twenty miles to their beach maintenance program and now has a total of at least 108.4 miles of restored beaches.

There are several beach areas in Florida that have had 50-year federal "Hurricane and Storm Damage Reduction" projects authorized by Congress. These authorizations allowed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to launch studies of the potential coastal erosion problems in this order:

  • A Reconnaissance Report, which documents existing conditions and possible solutions, and establishes whether there is a federal interest in the project. If the project passes this barrier, it moves to…
  • A Feasibility Study, to determine whether the proposed project is environmentally acceptable and economically justified. This results in a recommended plan, which then leads to…
  • An Appropriations Request, which requires Congressional approval of any federal funds being spent on the proposed project (which cannot exceed 65% of the project cost and rarely reach 50%, with state and local funds making up the balance).


The 50-year federal projects and the corresponding start and end dates are as follows:

  • Pinellas County (Treasure Island), FL 1969 - 2019
  • Broward County (Segment 2), FL 1970 - 2020
  • Ft. Pierce Beach, FL 1971 - 2021
  • Palm Beach County (Delray), FL 1973 - 2023
  • Dade County, FL 1975 - 2025


Even before the hurricane seasons in recent years, Florida’s beaches were severely eroded, with almost 40% listed as critically eroded. Following the hurricanes, Florida began the largest and most costly beach and dune rebuilding program in US history. In the 10 years between 1994 and 2004 the state spent $242 million on beach renourishment. In 2004 and 2005 the state spent approximately $173 million on sand. This was matched with $184 million from the federal government and about $40 million from local governments for a total of over $400 million spent in just two years. An estimated $140 million in today's dollars has been spent over the years to place 12.3 million cubic yards of sand on Miami Beach, according to research compiled by Western Carolina University's Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines.

In 2015, Brevard County announced that they plan to spend almost $73 million in federal, state and local tax dollars in the next five years to fatten beaches from Cape Canaveral to Melbourne Beach. Also in 2015, Broward County announced that their biggest beach restoration project in 10 years would begin in fall 2015. The $55 million project is timed to begin at the end of sea turtle nesting season in early November. It calls for roughly 45,000 truck trips from the center of Florida to carry up to 750,000 cubic yards of sand to the coast -- or about 300 truck trips per day. After being dumped on the beach, the sand will be spread out by bulldozers. In a detailed biological review, the National Marine Fisheries Service said the project, known as Segment 2, will bury up to 4.9 acres of coral reef and destroy habitat for young green sea turtles. The plan calls for extensive efforts to prevent harm and mitigate any damage. Coral colonies would be transplanted away from danger and 6.8 acres of artificial reef would be built out of limestone and concrete off Lauderdale-by-the-Sea.

Beach fill projects are typically preceded by a feasibility study. After completion of a project a "Certificate of Completion" is issued and follow-up monitoring is conducted. Florida monitors beach fill projects after sand placement using beach profiles, bathymetry, and aerial photography. Monitoring includes both physical (width of beach) and biological (ecological parameters) such as planform changes, water quality, nearshore hard bottom and seagrass areas, sea turtles, manatee, shorebirds, etc.

Beach Fill project in Palm Beach County, FL in 1962

Many beach fill projects in Florida require frequent re-fill. All the inlet-related projects are in this category, typically requiring sand bypassing on an annual basis. Many other beach fill projects are designed to address hotspots and maintenance fill on 7 to 8 year intervals.[2]

Locations with multiple recent "re-fill" projects include:

  • South Amelia Island 1994, 2002, 2008
  • Lido Key (Sarasota) 1998, 2002
  • Ft. Pierce 1999, 2003, 2005
  • Longboat Key (Sarasota/Manatee) 1997, 2001
  • Mid-Town (Palm Beach) 1995,2003
  • Long Key (Pinellas) 1996, 2000
  • South Boca Raton 1996, 2002
  • Captiva Island (Lee) 1996, 2005
  • Anna Maria Island (Manatee) 1993, 2002
  • Treasure Island (Pinellas) dating back to 1969, with the most recent projects in 1996, 2000, 2004 (see details below)
  • Duval County 1995, 2005, 2010
  • Delray Beach 1992, 2002, 2005
  • St John's County 2003, 2005
  • Brevard County - N Reach 2001, 2005, 2013
  • Brevard County - S Reach 2002, 2005
  • Martin County 1996, 2005
  • Palm Beach County - Ocean Ridge 1998, 2005
  • Pensacola Beach 2003, 2005
  • Panama City Beach 1999, 2005, 2011
  • Lee County - Bonita Beach 1995, 2004


The latest (ending in late 2011) beach fill project at Panama Beach cost $16 million and pumped 1.4 million cubic yards of sand to approximately 7.5 miles of beach, extending the shoreline by 100 feet in many locations.

Details (year, amount of fill) on specific beach fill projects in Pinellas County are as follows:

  • Sunset Beach
    • 1969 - 790,000 cubic yards
    • 1972 - 155,000 cubic yards
    • 1976 - 380,000 cubic yards
    • 1983 - 220,000 cubic yards
    • 1986 - 550,000 cubic yards
    • 1996 - 51,300 cubic yards
    • 2000 - 236,000 cubic yards
    • 2004 - 225,000 cubic yards
  • Upham Beach
    • 1980 - 254,000 cubic yards
    • 1986 - 98,000 cubic yards
    • 1991 - 230,000 cubic yards
    • 1996 - 253,000 cubic yards
    • 2000 - 281,000 cubic yards
    • 2004 - 408,000 cubic yards
  • Pass-a-Grille Beach
    • 1986 - 73,000 cubic yards
    • 1991 - 100,000 cubic yards
    • 2004 - 95,000 cubic yards


Regarding the fate of the 1996 beach fill at Upham Beach, a 1-minute movie (link not currently available) shows daily images from October 1996, four months after nourishment, to April 1998, 22 months after nourishment. The camera is looking south along St. Pete Beach. At the beginning, there is an exposed downdrift seawall. Rapid erosion from the project area results in downdrift deposition. You can then see the shoreline advance at the downdrift seawall. During the second winter season, several storm events cause significant shoreline erosion at the public park. During this winter, the erosion rate was 1.4 ft/day (erosion rates are typically measured in ft/yr). Less than 2 years after nourishment, 83% of the beach fill eroded from Upham; however, the downdrift beaches benefited from this erosion. Upham Beach is an excellent example of a “feeder beach” where sediment is placed on the updrift end of a region intended to receive fill. The fill erodes rapidly from the placement area, but supplies the downdrift beaches.

An article appearing in the St. Augustine Record in July 2012 stated that beach fill projects in St. Augustine over the preceding 11 years (in 2002, 2005 and 2012) cost a total of $46 million. About 80.5 percent of beach fill money comes from the federal government through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The other 19.5 percent comes from local government: 11 percent from the county Tourist Development Council and 8.5 percent from the state.

State funding sources for coastal erosion control projects include a designated erosion response fund, sometimes a disaster fund, and occasionally a special appropriations from general revenues. There is generally an annual legislative appropriation.

Florida DEP's funding request for FY 2002-2003 listed 20 "priority projects" for erosion control, fill, and restoration. The total budget for these projects was over $81 million, with the federal, state and local shares being $27 million, $30 million, and $25 million, respectively. The largest projects on this list are Pensacola Beach Restoration ($20 million), Brevard County Beach Restoration ($13.4 million), Broward County Beach Fill ($9.7 million), and Fort Pierce Beach Fill ($8.3 million). An additional 19 "alternative projects" were listed, with a total budget of over $60 million, bringing the proposed combined federal, state, and local budget for all projects to over $141 million.

Florida's beach fill program typically costs around $100 million per year, with the federal government picking up at least half, Florida spending $30 million, and local governments contributing the rest. The 2004-2005 budget was $113 million for 10 projects at Captiva, Brevard, Hutchinson Island, Longboat Key, Venice, Fort Pierce, Palm Beach, Collier, Boca Raton, and Navarre Beach.

Following the disastrous hurricanes of 2004, there was pressure to immediately restore damaged beaches to both protect coastal property and protect the tourist-based economy that depends on sandy beaches. There was also considerable discussion in Florida newspapers regarding the advisability of beach fill projects, the costs and benefits involved, and the potential ecological harm that can sometimes be associated with these projects. An excellent series of articles written by Virginia Smith appeared in the Daytona Beach News-Journal in November 2004 that framed the issues.

A $68 million emergency spending package was passed by the Florida legislature in a December 2004 special lawmaking session. Estimates of the costs necessary to restore Florida's scoured beaches are at least $200 million. Some individual property owners are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars.

A $1.9 million beach fill project began at Treasure Shores Park in north Indian River County in January 2005. The sand for that project was obtained from mining on the mainland. In November 2004 the town council of Palm Beach approved the expenditure of $1.2 million of public money to rebuild 2.5 miles of hurricane eroded dune on private property in front of 36 oceanfront condominiums.

Jupiter Island, reportedly the nation's wealthiest town, is asking taxpayers around the country (via the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA) to pay for 90% of the sand removed from their beaches by recent hurricanes. Jupiter Island officials have submitted a request to FEMA for a $9.1 million project to bring in 1.1 million cubic yards of sand. The town's first beach fill project, started in 1973, imported about 3.5 million cubic yards of sand for about five miles of beach. Since then, there have been eight town-sponsored beach fill projects. Restoration work occurred on the southern end of the island following the hurricanes of September 2004.

On a similar note, beach fill to try to keep pace with almost 15 linear feet a year of coastal erosion has been performed at Singer Island (some of the most expensive real estate in Florida) annually since 2004, costing over $6.6 million, and scheduled to cost up to $9 million more of state funds, plus additional expense to an environment which is largely out of the public's eye. The reefs that once lined the coast of Singer Island are now buried.

In March 2005 an article by Suzanne Wentley in TC Palm said that the reef and boulders at Blowing Rocks Preserve were covered with sand. Since the sand was gray rather than brown native sand, there was speculation that the sand covering the reef might have been an unintended consequence of nearby beach fill projects. This condition was also found to exist at the wormrock reef off Bathtub Reef Beach on Hutchinson Island, based on studies by professor Dan McCarthy at Jacksonville University.

The issue of sand from dredging projects burying reefs has emerged as a major concern with several projects. Two additional examples are with the Space Coast Reef (Satellite Beach) and at PortMiami.

Another article by Ms. Wentley in the TC Palm in June 2005 discussed concerns that a 3.7-mile dune restoration project in St. Lucie County that was completed in April 2005 may have used sand that was not compatible in size or color with natural beach sand. This may be causing an increase in "false crawls" (when sea turtles emerge from the ocean to nest, but return to the water without laying eggs). Erik Martin, a biologist with Ecological Associates, is studying the situation, and a state-contracted consultant, Tampa-based PBS&J, is conducting an in-depth analysis of the environmental effects of the dune restoration.

A further development regarding this project was reported by Ms. Wentley in The Stuart News in October 2005. Following tropical storm Tammy, the dunes in south St. Lucie County were cut in half, although beaches in Martin and Indian River Counties remained largely unchanged. Professor Harold Wanless of University of Miami blamed it on the too-fine sand trucked in for the project. Surfers, divers and fishermen reported poor ocean visibility in the area.

A third article by Ms. Wentley in the TC Palm on July 24, 2005 stated that almost $40 million in federal, state and county funds were planned to be spent in Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River counties to restore the beaches to pre-hurricane conditions and to protect oceanfront homes. The cumulative volume of sand pumped from the ocean floor or trucked in from pits for these projects is more than 2.5 million cubic yards. The projects are as follows:

  • Indian River County
    • Ambersands Beach - offshore dredging - 290,000 cubic yards - 2.5 miles - $6 million in FEMA funding
    • Wabasso Beach to Indian River Shores - trucked-in sand - 217,000 cubic yards - 2.5 miles - $10.3 million in state funding
    • Sector 7 - offshore dredging - 360,000 cubic yards - 2.5 miles - Est. $6 million in county funding
  • St. Lucie County
    • Fort Pierce South Beach - offshore dredging - 640,000 cubic yards - 1.3 miles - $3.5 million in state, federal and county funding
    • South County Dune Restoration - trucked-in sand - 201,300 cubic yards - 3.66 miles - $4.48 million in state and county funding
  • Martin County
    • Shoreline - offshore dredging - 810,000 cubic yards - 4 miles - $8 million in federal funding
    • Jupiter Island - 250,000 cubic yards - various "hot spots" - "free" as part of St. Lucie inlet navigation project


In September 2005 residents of Satellite Beach and Indian Harbor Beach attended a public meeting to plead with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to initiate a dredging and beach fill project to restore their eroded beaches and protect structures. But the Corps indicated that it would be at least 2009 until a project could be implemented. A representative of Surfrider Foundation who attended the meeting recommended dune repair with truck-hauled sand, stricter permitting of coastal development and removal of stormwater outfalls that drain to the beach as alternative ways of addressing the beach erosion problem.

In October 2005 Brevard County applied for a federal permit to pump 1.8 million cubic yards of sand onto 7.6 miles of beach in 2009. A complicating factor at this location is the existence of 2.4 to 5.6 acres of nearshore natural coquina rock reef that would be buried by a beach fill project. The federal government would only allow that to happen if a new, artificial reef is built to replace the natural reef. Brevard County has suggested the way to do that is with an $8 million to $11 million system of offshore "marine mattresses" topped with huge limestone boulders. Another idea is to recreate the reefs using custom concrete. Fishermen, surfers and biologists are skeptical of the ability of artificial reefs to replicate the habitat provided by the natural reef.

The waves at Cocoa Beach have been negatively affected by beach fill projects. John Hearin, Vice-Chairman of Surfrider's Cocoa Beach Chapter, has recently completed his doctoral dissertation on the effects of sand dredge-and-fill projects on Cocoa Beach’s waves. In 2001, as part of Federal reparations for the jetty extensions and port projects, Great Lakes Dredge and Dock sucked 3.1 million cubic yards of sand out of the Canaveral Shoals and discharged it onto Cocoa Beach. In 2005, Weeks Marine pulled another 1.3 million cubic yards out of the shoals. The combined cost was $29 million. FDEP standards require imported sand to “maintain the general character of the beach,” including grain size, color, and mineral composition. Hearin’s analysis found that the sand from the shoals was not a good match for the beaches. The projects also altered the slope of the seafloor and transformed Cocoa Beach from a “dissipative” surf zone (which broke at all tides) to an “intermediate-reflective” one, effectively a tidal dependent beach with a narrow surf zone and more closeouts. His study included an analysis of all the nourishment projects performed in Brevard County between 1971 and 2011.

A shortage of suitable quality beach sand is beginning to hamper several potential beach fill projects in Florida. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is looking at a shoal off St. Lucie County as a source of over one million cubic yards of sand for 13 miles of Miami-Dade County Beaches. St. Lucie County residents and environmental activists are concerned that dredging the shoal could endanger fisheries there and make St. Lucie County more susceptible to storm surge.

An article by Curtis Morgan, "South Florida Running Out of Sand" appeared in the Miami Herald on March 21, 2007. The article quoted Maimi-Dade environmental director Carlos Espinosa as saying "For practical purposes, we are out of sand." As a result, the hunt for sand is ranging from ancient beach areas now buried inland to islands of the Bahamas and the Caribbean.

Another response to the sand shortage problem is the creation of a Reconnaissance Offshore Sand Search (ROSS) Website and database. The purpose of the ROSS Website is to enable the user to make the most informed decision possible when it comes to management of our Florida beaches and coastlines. Data that is both current and easily accessible are the key ingredients that facilitate the management process. Two basic types of data will be used in this effort. Spatial data will be used because the environment is geographic in nature. Tabular data will be used to store information about events which take place at locations stored as spatial data and referred to as spatial features. The database stores information about sand samples. Information associated with sand samples includes, but is not limited to, granulometric data, bathymetry, seismic and sidescan sonar images, core photos, core logs, core descriptions, Munsell Color, metadata (information about the original data), and associated project information. The tool used for manipulating, analyzing and displaying spatial and tabular data is a Geographic Information System (GIS). GIS provides a 'Spatial' view of information. GIS will be used to display and interpret results.

As of January 2007, plans for Indian River County beach fill projects consisted of:

  • Start late February 2007 on a $6.8 million project dredging 363,000 cubic yards of sand from off Round Island Park and spreading it on Sandpointe south to The Moorings, the county's most eroded beach.
  • Start March 1 dredging 100,000 cubic yards from a sand trap in Sebastian Inlet and piping it under the Sebastian Inlet bridge to the dune south of the inlet. County Coastal Engineer James Gray stated he was trying to negotiate a price for this job that no longer included 160,000 cubic yards of sand from offshore.


One of issues here was the lack of county monitoring of impacts to rock reef habitat off Ambersand Beach to see how much sand might have smothered it from a 2003 dredge and fill project. Because this was not assessed, DEP was holding up permits for further use of offshore dredging sites.

Private beach fill projects have also occurred in Florida. For instance, Disney financed a beach fill project at their Vero Beach Resort near Wabasso Beach Park in January 2003 that brought in 10,000 tons of sand truckload to restore 1,600 feet of eroded dune. Surfers in the area have noticed that this tends to negatively impact the surf by steepening the offshore profile, making the waves break closer to shore — or not at all. Other observers of the project are concerned about the sand smothering reefs and associated ocean and beach habitat.[3] These are common concerns about beach fill projects.

Palm Beach began a 10-year, $42.5 million beach fill program in January 2003. The first project was a $4.4 million effort to fortify 2.5 miles of shoreline. Despite the fact that this shoreline is mostly private, the town of Palm Beach and the state split the cost. The state was willing to fund the project because they concluded that the Palm Beach Inlet caused much of the erosion. The fill plan was modified to protect the popular "rock pile" diving spot after divers and environmentalists complained that the sand would bury marine habitat. If the town wants state money for future projects, they must agree to provide parking and beach access to the public. Plans by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to improve a sand bypassing system may minimize the need for future fill projects in this area.[4]

Turbid (cloudy) ocean water, invertebrates buried in the sand, and concern about the deposition of sediments on nearby coral reefs and sea grasses plagued the Palm Beach fill project in late 2005. An article by Antigone Barton in the Palm Beach Post on December 5, 2005 brought up not only those concerns, but overall concerns about the wisdom and fairness of continuing to have taxpayers (most of whom live far away from the coast) pay to replace sand for the benefit of those who live on the coast.

In March 2009 Administrative Law Judge Robert E. Meale ruled that the Town of Palm Beach be denied a Joint Coastal Permit to nourish Reach 8. In March 2008, the Surfrider Foundation, Snook Foundation, and three individuals filed suit against the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for approving a Joint Coastal Permit for the Town of Palm Beach to dredge-and-fill Reach 8. The Town of Palm Beach intervened on behalf of the DEP, and the City of Lake Worth and Eastern Surfing Association intervened in opposition of the project. Reach 8 is one of eleven reaches of beach within the County of Palm Beach. Reach 8 extends 1.8 miles and includes beaches within the Town of Palm Beach and the City of Lake Worth. The Town of Palm Beach proposed dredging offshore and filling in 700,000 cubic yards of fill material on Reach 8 directly burying seven acres of nearshore hardbottom reef. The City of Lake Worth maintains a public park within Reach 8 and opted out of the Joint Coastal Permit due to the project's potential to harm their environmental resources and local economy dependent on them. Judge Meale agreed with the petitioners' assertions that the dredge-and-fill project would destroy the beach and coastal environment by directly burying reefs, killing marine life, including endangered sea turtles, and overall destabilizing fishing, diving, surfing and other valuable recreational uses of the area. Judge Meale’s ruling is an order of recommendation to Secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Michael Sole, who has 45 days to issue the final order.

As noted above, one of the beaches with a long history of beach fill projects is Delray Beach. In the summer of 1973, approximately 1.6 million cubic yards of sand was placed along 2.7 miles of coastline. Since the initial fill in 1973, the beach has undergone four periodic maintenance events including projects in 1978, 1984, 1992 and 2002. Approximately 6 million cubic yards of sand have been placed on the beach, including all the projects through 2002. Of that volume, surveys conducted by Coastal Planning and Engineering in 2004 located 3.9 million cubic yards, or about 65 percent of the total sand volume still present within the project area. In 2004 and 2005, Delray Beach was battered by major hurricanes. Although the constructed beach provided storm protection such that no waves impacted upon State Road A-1-A or buildings along the restored beach, a "Delray Beach Emergency Beach Restoration" project was deemed necessary and began in early April 2005. The purpose of this Federally funded project supervised by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is to restore the estimated 420,000 cubic yards of sand washed away by Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne in 2004. Local surfers are concerned that removal of sand from the "borrow area" just offshore will negatively affect the surf at Delray Beach.

The state is also planning to give $6.5 million to Volusia County to address erosion problems at New Smyrna Beach south of the Ponce de Leon Inlet, pending completion of a county study of ways to fix the problem. A beach fill project from Sapphire Road south to Anglefish Avenue that would put nearly 800,000 cubic yards of sand from Rattlesnake Island on the beaches was expected to begin in April or May 2005. [5]

A $14 million "dune restoration" project along five miles of shoreline at New Smyrna Beach in Volusia County began in early January 2006 and was projected to be complete by mid to late April 2006. The work involved pumping 750,000 cubic yards of sand from an Intercoastal Waterway spoil island onto New Smyrna area beaches, then pushing the sand into 6- to 9-feet high by 30-to-50-feet-wide berms. Disappointingly, a combination of strong northeast winds and high waves in late April-early May 2006 eroded away about 10 to 12 feet of newly-placed sand. Volusia County is still discussing a $20-$40 million dollar long-term beach renourishment project, which would fully renourish eight to nine miles of southern beaches, from Beachway Avenue to Canaveral National Seashore. The work would put 3 to 4 million cubic yards of sand onto the beaches, building them up 6 to 10 feet in elevation.

Broward County's beach fill project mentioned above was set to begin in 2003 with fill of 4.6 miles of beach from Pompano Beach to North Fort Lauderdale and another project covering the area between Port Everglades and Hallandale, beginning in 2005. The Port Everglades to Hallandale Beach project will spread 1.7 million cubic yards of sand along 6.2 miles of shoreline. This project, costing an estimated $41 million, may be the most expensive beach fill project (per mile) ever. One of the goals of this project is to replace a nearly absent beach at Hollywood Beach and protect ocean front condos and hotels there. It is Broward County's 10th beach fill project since 1970. Despite environmental concerns, the increasing costs and the need to go further out to sea to find suitable sand, Broward County is planning to create a perpetual beach fill program.

It was announced in late March 2003 that a beach restoration project scheduled for Jacksonville Beach would not be completed in 2003 and likely would not resume until 2005. This project had previously been halted in January 2003 after tons of oyster shells and other debris were found in material coming from a St. Johns River dredging project. There had been a rush to complete the beach fill prior to the April 15, 2003 effective date of a sea turtle protection law and the May start of the sea turtle nesting season.

A federal spending bill was expected to be approved in November 2005 that finances numerous water resources projects in Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast sponsored by Reps. E. Clay Shaw Jr., R-Fort Lauderdale; Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar; and Mark Foley, R-Jupiter. Those projects include:

  • Palm Beach County beach fill — $2.4 million for the federal share of beach fill projects that were completed in 2002.
  • Lake Worth Inlet — $1 million for harbor and inlet dredging at the Port of Palm Beach.
  • St. Lucie Inlet — $1.5 million to complete the plan to improve the inlet with jetty modifications.
  • Fort Pierce Beach — $150,000 to finish a report to improve sand retention structures along 2.3 miles of shoreline eroded largely because of the federally maintained St. Lucie Inlet.
  • Another $100,000 was earmarked for a study that would link about 4 miles of beach renourishment projects in Martin and St. Lucie counties north of the Fort Pierce Harbor jetty.


A $23 million beach restoration project began in early 2006 to add 80 to 100 feet of width to 7.2 miles of beach in Walton County and Destin.

Miami-Dade's Department of Environmental Resources Management (DERM) and the U.S. Army Corps on Engineers completed a $2 million, 70,000 cubic yard beach fill project from South Beach to the waterfront areas between 26th and 29th streets in Miami Beach in early 2008. The project, which widened the beach by about 150 feet, is "expected to last" at least a year. Later in 2008 DERM plans to complete projects near 65th Street, Bal Harbor and Sunny Isles Beach. DERM hopes to complete 13 miles of Miami-Dade beach fill projects in the next two years.

An $11 million, 2-months-long dredging project to rebuild Duval County beaches began in July 2010. The work targeted two areas, one concentrated in Atlantic Beach and one in Jacksonville Beach. Two dredges were assigned to pump sand ashore.

An interesting but unproven technology called Pressure Equalizing Modules, or PEMs, is being piloted (installation in February 2008) in Hillsboro Beach. Water jets and mechanical drills will bury 6-foot-long plastic tubes 3 feet below the sand in 33 vertical rows from the Port de Mer condos south one mile. The PEMs are designed to let retreating sea water drain through them but leave the sand behind. It will cost $150,000 per year to install and maintain the first mile of PEMs. Kenneth Christensen of the manufacturer, EcoShore International, Inc., expects a wider beach within six to nine months. If PEMs do not slow erosion by at least 25 percent compared to neighboring beaches, Hillsboro Beach will pay nothing.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Jacksonville District manages many shore protection projects and studies in Florida.

Florida state budgets for beach fill projects over several years in the early 2000s were:
2000 - $25 million
2001 - $30.8 million
2002 - $34.8 million
2003 - $30 million
2004 - $22.5 million
2005 - $25 million, plus a hurricane supplement of $68.4 million
2006 - $73.3 million

The funding source is the documentary stamp tax, placed into the Ecosystem Management and Restoration Trust Fund.

Figures cited in an article in USA Today (November 10, 2003) on beach fill indicated that the federal government has spent $887 million over the last 75 years on beach fill projects in Florida.

The Sea Turtle Conservancy (formerly The Caribbean Conservation Corp) in Gainesville is a group that is concerned that massive dredge projects along the Atlantic Coast are being done without looking at the long-term impacts to sea turtle nesting habitat and sand quality on the beach.


Information on beach fill in Florida is also available through Western Carolina University's Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines. State-by-state information is available from the pull-down menu or by clicking on a state on the map on this page.

In 2017 the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA) announced a new online National Beach Nourishment Database – featuring data on projects comprised of nearly 1.5 billion cubic yards of sand placed in nearly 400 projects covering the continental U.S. coastline. In addition to the total volume and the number of projects, the database includes the number of nourishment events, the oldest project, the newest project, the known total cost, the total volume and the known length. The information is broken into both state statistics and those of local or regional projects. Every coastal continental state is included (so Alaska and Hawaii are still being compiled), and projects along the Great Lakes are similarly waiting to be added.

A report National Assessment of Beach Nourishment Requirements Associated with Accelerated Sea Level Rise (Leatherman, 1989) on EPA's Climate Change Impacts and Adapting to Climate Change websites notes that the cumulative cost of sand replenishment to protect Florida's coast from a 50 to 200 cm rise in sea level by 2100 is estimated at $787 million to $7.746 billion (Atlantic Coast) and $904 million to $4.092 billion (Gulf Coast).

The Fiscal Year 2017 Civil Works Budget for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers provides $4.62 billion in gross discretionary funding for the Civil Works program. This budget lists proposed projects and the associated budget justification by state.

State, Territory, and Commonwealth Beach Nourishment Programs: A National Overview (2000) is a report NOAA/OCRM that provides an overview of the problem of beach erosion, various means of addressing this problem, and discusses issues regarding the use of beach nourishment. Section 2 of the report provides an overview of state, territorial, and commonwealth coastal management policies regarding beach nourishment and attendant funding programs. Appendix B provides individual summaries of 33 beach nourishment programs and policies.


Contact

Paden Woodruff
Department of Environmental Protection
Marjory Stoneman Douglas Building
3900 Commonwealth Boulevard
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3000
(850) 922-7703
Email: Paden.Woodruff@dep.state.fl.us

Also check out the FDEP Erosion Control Program website. It provides access to a list of "beach erosion control" contacts in Florida by region/county. There are also project details provided for selected projects in Nassau, Martin, Palm Beach, Dade, Charlotte, Lee and Pinellas Counties.

Footnotes

  1. Ralph Clark, DEP. Surfrider State of the Beach Survey response. November 12, 2002.
  2. Ralph Clark, DEP. Surfrider State of the Beach Survey response. November 12, 2002.
  3. "Disney Trucks in Sand" by Henry A. Stephens. Vero Beach Press Journal. January 12, 2003.
  4. "10-year Project to Restore Shoreline Begins" by Tim OÕMeilia. Palm Beach Post. January 19, 2003.
  5. "State Seeks to Send $6.5 million for Erosion". The Daytona Beach News-Journal. January 19, 2003.



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