November 2, 2013 - In May of 2007, former Broward Beach Administrator Stephen Higgins issued a report that 1) announced the conclusion of the 18-month Segment III Monitoring period, 2) summarized the financial status of the completed South County Segment III beach renourishment, and 3) announced an erosion control study in support of the Port Everglades sand bypass.
|NEW BEACH CONSTRUCTION PLAN|
The Search for Sand
Buried in the report was the seemingly innocuous statement, “The County will be investigating the use of sand from other locations, including locations outside of the United States, for future nourishment of Segment II.” Responding to a frenzied email from the neighborhood association asking whether he was spinning another delay for the Segment II project, Higgins wrote “We are close to executing an amendment with our consultants to undertake several tasks in preparation for resuming the Segment II engineering/design/permitting. One important task is to find sand.”
|FORMER BEACH BOSS|
Although Broward reserves were heavily depleted by past projects, every scrap of relevant documentation, from the Final Environmental Impact Statement to the plan approved by the State, targets the waters off Deerfield Beach as a sand “borrow site” adequate for both Segment III and Segment II renourishments. Why scavenge for sand in other locations? Was Higgins overreacting? KABOOM – The other shoe dropped!
He answered “Borrow area No. 1, which has enough material with which to construct Segment II, now has a higher percentage of rock in it after removing sand for Segment III. We’ll need to investigate that. We’ll also look for additional sand offshore, but I’m not confident that we’ll find any significant new deposits. Accordingly, we will also be looking for more remote sources of domestic sand (e.g. offshore central FL and in the Gulf of Mexico) and for non-domestic sand, with emphasis on Bahamian aragonite. When we find the sand we’re going to use, if it’s different from the sand we had proposed to use in our previous plans, we will have to do some re-engineering of the project and redo some of the permitting.”
As decades of delays engineered by radical pseudo-environmentalists exponentially skyrocketed project costs, 2004 and 2005 serial hurricanes claimed huge incremental sections of beach from the county’s vulnerable coast - fueling the need for additional sand. The shortage was real. Higgins began investigating alternative sources of sand for use in Segment II, including the possible utilization of recycled “glass sand” since glass and sand are both composed primarily of silicon dioxide. The County hired Coastal Planning and Engineering, Inc. (CPE) to compile a report about the advantages and disadvantages of artificial sand.
On November 13, 2008, the Broward County Commission meeting agenda included this update, “A sand search is being conducted to discover new sources of beach-compatible sand for placement onto Broward County beaches, including those of the City of Fort Lauderdale, the Town of Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, and the City of Pompano Beach. These beaches comprise Segment II of the Broward County Shore Protection Project. The search for sand will include not only the seafloor offshore of Broward County, but also areas offshore of other Florida counties and areas outside of US waters. In addition to finding new sand sources for Segment II, the County will reevaluate the Segment II project in the context of current economic and environmental conditions, and will propose a project appropriate to those updated conditions. Finally, a high-resolution study is being undertaken to ascertain whether erosion control structures can be employed along the County’s shoreline to reduce the rates of erosion and help sustain our beach nourishment projects.”
|WIDESPREAD SEARCH FOR SAND|
80 - 85% of the beach sand lost to tidal erosion occurs at inlets - such as Port Everglades and Hillsboro. By capturing sand that would otherwise be sucked into the lagoon or washed out to sea where the coast “breaks”, and transferring it from the north to south side of the inlet, a sand bypass reinstates the natural southerly migration of sand down the coast - to Hollywood, Hallandale, Dania - and ultimately, Miami.
The Battle for Broward Sand
In the preceding months, hoteliers, politicians and realtors in Hollywood, Hallandale and Dania repeatedly met privately with Higgins, insisting that he redeploy the sand planned for Segment II to “shore up” faltering South County beaches renourished two years earlier - at least until a Port Everglades sand bypass could diminish the sand lost to tidal erosion. Denying that the Segment II sand was under siege and that “Hollywood is not looking to make a sand grab,” South Broward politicians asserted that “hot spots” in Hollywood and Hallandale Beach could be addressed with “Sands of Opportunity” pending installation of a sand bypass. Of course, there were no “Sands of Opportunity.” Any sand used to address erosion-based shortages in Segment III would have to be hijacked from Segment II.
|HOLLYWOOD HOTELS COVET SAND|
Galt Mile officials and Fort Lauderdale City Commissioners were livid. On January 6, 2009, an outraged City Commission approved City Resolution No. 09-11, withdrawing City approval to build a Port Everglades sand bypass until the Segment II project was completed. The City posted a page on its web site entitled “Help Save Fort Lauderdale Beach,” which provided the email addresses of the County Commissioners and stated “The Fort Lauderdale City Commissioners need your help to make sure that Fort Lauderdale is not pushed to the back of the line. Let Broward County know that you oppose the proposed Port Everglades Sand Bypass Project and that you want them to implement the Segment II Beach Renourishment Project as promised.”
After decades of slugging his way through scores of scientific and regulatory bear traps, Higgins was caught in political quicksand. When asked by Galt Mile officials about the Segment II project, officials in Higgins’ Biological Resources Division responded with nondescript delays throughout 2008 and 2009. Concerned about the lack of progress, the Galt Mile Community Association (GMCA) contacted Michael Sole, who served as Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) Secretary under former Governor Charlie Crist. Sole informed GMCA President Pio Ieraci that Broward Beach officials hadn’t responded to Departmental inquiries for more than a year. While the two agencies were locked in this dilatory two-step, the Federal and State permits authorizing the project expired. Broward County dropped the ball.
|FORMER FDEP SECRETARY|
MICHAEL W. SOLE
Prior to proceeding with the Segment II beach fix, Broward beach officials would first have to repeat the environmental testing required for a new federal permit. Since Michael Sole worked with Higgins as a Marine Biologist in Broward County before his appointment to FDEP, he was conversant with the project’s scientific and engineering parameters. While a painful repetition of the federal permit process was unavoidable, Sole granted Higgins a 5-year State permit extension through June 4, 2014, saving his former Broward colleague months of bureaucratic tedium. The extension proved to be a parting gift. A year later, Sole stepped down as FDEP Secretary after overseeing the State’s response to the Deepwater Horizon fiasco and accepted an offer from Florida Power & Light to serve as Vice President of their Governmental Affairs Department.
Hoping to quell the simmering animosity between its northern and southern coastal municipalities, Broward County Administrator Bertha Henry sent a beach renourishment update to former Fort Lauderdale City Manager George Gretsas on May 27, 2010. She concluded her summary of beach project issues with a pipe dream cloaked in a political olive branch “Broward County-conducted beach construction in Segment II is targeted for November of 2011, pending completion of the engineering/design and permitting processes in a timely fashion.” Shortly afterwards, Beach Administrator Higgins announced that he would retire in 2011. He could no longer stomach being treated like a bureaucratic piñata. Although he would continue as a consultant, his duties would be assumed by Deputy Director Eric Myers of Broward’s Environmental Protection and Growth Management Department. Myers was Higgins’ boss. In contrast with Higgins, Myers couches an impressive understanding of the underlying science in a bottomless inventory of country parables.
Enter Eric Myers
On February 3, 2011, Myers asked Galt Mile officials to help reboot the dormant beach project. At subsequent meetings with the City of Fort Lauderdale and association officials, Myers presented an updated plan to repair disappearing north county beaches. Having re-engaged the primary stakeholders, Myers initiated an accelerated permitting process and eliminated many of the plan’s regulatory roadblocks by revising the sand source. By purchasing perfectly matched sand from inland mines instead of dredging scarce and less compatible offshore sediment, Myers allayed regulatory concerns about reef damage and heightened levels of turbidity.
ADMINISTRATOR ERIC MYERS
As Federal and State beach renourishment resources waned, the initial financing burden for salvaging and/or stabilizing shrinking beaches would fall to local jurisdictions. For the past several years, Broward County has been desperately trying to cash in past due renourishment markers from Tallahassee and Washington.
|POST SANDY FORT LAUDERDALE BEACH FILL|
When Hurricane Sandy dismantled several blocks of State Road A1A and the adjacent beach, it became obvious that a reliable and financially reasonable sand source was critical to future renourishments, whether to rehabilitate an entire coastal system or to repair “hot spots” prone to accelerated erosion. As observed by FDEP’s late Lonnie Ryder “Beaches are the backbone of tourism in the state of Florida. As your beaches go, so goes your economy.” The future health of Broward’s beaches - and its beach-based economy - will depend on the cost of getting compatible sand to the beach and fitting inlets with the beach erosion architecture that will help keep it there.
|FLORIDA CONTINENTAL SHELF|
The underlying problem is geography. Sand snatched from the seabed adjacent to an eroded beach is the safest, most convenient and least expensive alternative. Where the ocean floor plummets past the continental shelf, the seabed is too deep to frugally harvest sand. As the continental shelf passes south of Palm Beach, it narrows to a thin band, leaving Broward and Miami-Dade Counties with significantly smaller “borrow areas” than their neighbors to the north. To avoid damage to some of the state’s few active reef systems, Broward “borrow sites” are further limited to north county waters, near Deerfield Beach.
After decades of repeated renourishments, Miami-Dade is about to exhaust its offshore sand supply in February, when the last granules will go to repair a beach in the affluent village of Bal Harbour. Broward isn’t much better off, as its few remaining “borrow sites” are miniscule and their proximity to delicate reef systems makes them difficult to dredge. “Here we have coral reef systems that constrict the areas where we can go to retrieve sand,” said Tom Martin, a senior coastal engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Treasure Coast Sand - Regionalization
In considering sand sources for a Miami-Dade Federal Project, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the FDEP explored sites in federal designated waters off Martin, St. Lucie, Palm Beach and Broward counties in addition to deep water sites off Miami-Dade. Encouraging news about huge sand deposits along the Treasure Coast prompted Director Mark Thomasson of Florida’s Division of Water Resource Management to comment “I would characterize it as a source of sand that meets our needs in the foreseeable future.”
|DIRECTOR MARK THOMASSON|
WATER RESOURCE MNGT
Given the catastrophic consequences threatened by the impending loss of Miami-Dade and Broward beaches - as protection for people and property against storm damage and their local and Statewide value as economic engines, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) conducted the “Southeast Florida Sediment Assessment and Needs Determination” (SAND) study. The SAND study’s primary purpose was to calculate the volume of sand needed to continually renourish all beaches in St. Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade Counties for a time frame of 50 years (2012 - 2062) and measure the volume of offshore sand available to these 5 counties. Prepared in partnership with the State, the Corps and the 5 participating Counties, a draft report completed in November 2012 was subsequently vetted by the FDEP.
The FDEP retained Boca Raton-based Coastal Planning and Engineering, Inc. (CPE) to perform a technical review of both the Sediment Assessment and Needs Determination portions of the SAND study. On May 31, 2013, a memorandum of record summarized how criteria imposed by FDEP on the draft SAND study reduced the USACE’s initially estimated volume of available sediment by approximately 26% - or 100 million cubic yards (Mcy). The final SAND study concluded that “174,101,870 cubic yards of sediment are needed to support placement of planned, full-sized beach nourishment projects through 2062. With contingencies and confidence levels applied, it was found that 280,037,956 cubic yards exist offshore of Southeast Florida that meet the criteria for this study established for sand placement on Florida beaches. Therefore, currently known sediment resources for St. Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach, Broward and Miami–Dade Counties exceed sediment needs by 100,000,000 cubic yards.” The actual residual excess is stated as 105,936,086 cubic yards.
In short, after examining the Treasure Coast sand deposits along the adjacent seabed and in federal waters past the three nautical mile State limit, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the FDEP concluded that St. Lucie, Martin and Palm Beach counties have enough offshore sand reserves to address every renourishment project from Miami Beach to Port St. Lucie for at least 50 years, with more than 100 million cubic yards to spare. To immunize the study against accusations of massaging the data to benefit recipient counties, the Needs Determination was fitted with a 55% contingency cushion (30% - sand dropped in borrow area; 15% - other dredging losses; 10% - future performance impacts i.e. sea-level rise). Like a gift that keeps on giving, the memorandum also noted “This volume estimate will increase as potential and unverified sediment sources identified in the study area are further developed.”
In a recent Sun-Sentinel article, Washington-based Tribune reporter William E. Gibson sought to place the enormous volume of Treasure Coast sand into perspective by pointing out “Broward County’s eight major beach restoration projects since the 1970s have used about 10 million cubic yards of sand.” While the study verified available sediment volumes upwards of 280 million cubic yards, if the “contingency” criteria were stripped from the findings, the amount of available sand jumps to 475,392,915 cubic yards (475 million cubic yards) - upping the amount of sand left over after 50 years of renourishments to 300 million cubic yards. YIKES!
WILLIAM E. GIBSON
The study advocates the creation of a regional approach to managing sand resources. Steve Higgins and Eric Myers have always maintained that since the health of renourished beach segments depends on the stability of adjacent segments to the north and south, the Broward Shore Preservation Project is only sustainable if addressed in its entirety. Since this holds true for the entire coast, the sustainability of all renourishment projects would be more effectively managed on a regional basis. To achieve this, Federal and State authorities must mitigate the “Sandbox” mentality that permeates coastal counties.
|ERIC MYERS AND STEVE HIGGINS|
With the survival of critical coastal infrastructure in Broward and Miami-Dade at stake, implementing a regional authority has become a State and Federal imperative. “If we get hit by a large storm, unlike in the past where we knew we had resources right off our coast, those simply don’t exist now,” said Stephen Blair, chief of restoration and enhancement in Miami-Dade’s Department of Environmental Resources Management. “That vulnerability is very real.” The study additionally asserts that after a Regional Sediment Management Plan was created for all of the included sand sources, the FDEP and the US Department of Interior, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management could draft a lease agreement for the sediment sources that fall under Federal jurisdiction.
Many Public Officials in St. Lucie and Martin Counties view attempts to regionalize coastal management as a veil for aggressive “panhandling” by neighbors with designs on their reserves. They are understandably leery about providing unfettered access to their coastal bonanza. Attempts by Miami to purloin their offshore sand in 2006 were met with such local rage that they were dropped, especially after former Senate President Ken Pruitt characterized it as “almost a criminal act,” and starred in television commercials exclaiming “We will fight to the death to make sure you don’t take one grain of sand.”
|FORMER SENATE PRESIDENT KEN PRUITT|
Since the reserves being considered are in State and Federal Waters, jurisdictions that plan to use them must first elicit approval of the same State and Federal agencies that support the creation of a regional plan. Whether in Miami-Dade, St. Lucie or Martin Counties, beach projects must pass muster with FDEP and the Corps. As such, disgruntled county officials are reluctantly exploring a process in which stakeholders, counties, and the State and Federal agencies allocate sand resources on a regional level.
Since calculating the adequacy of an exhaustible resource begs the question “how much is enough,” petulant officials in donor counties hope to drown the process in dogma. For instance, St. Lucie County Commissioner Frannie Hutchinson asked, “What happens in 50 years when all that sand is gone? Where are we supposed to go then? I told them to take their sand shovels and sand buckets and go home and come up with a better plan.”
|ST. LUCIE COUNTY COMM.|
Despite objections by angry Treasure Coast public officials, Federal and State authorities are seeking to hammer out an agreement that the five South Florida Counties can live with. Since Miami and Broward are clearly the beneficiaries, officials in St. Lucie and Martin Counties are driven by enlightened self-interest to subvert the process or at least minimize its impact. With impressive reserves of its own, Palm Beach’s participation in this negotiation is largely a function of its location, as it buffers the donor and recipient members of this 5-county coastal block. According to Palm Beach Environmental Program Supervisor Leanne Welch, “We have enough near-shore sand for the next 30 or 40 years.”
|PALM BEACH COUNTY ENVIRONMENTAL|
PROGRAM SUPERVISOR LEANNE WELCH
The Corps hosted public hearings in each of the 5 counties this past August. As participants entered the Martin County meeting, they filed past a lime-green neon poster board inscribed with the message “No! You may not have our sand! Do not destroy our beaches too!” The bad blood wasn’t lost on Eric Myers “The locals didn’t take too kindly to us South Florida folks coming up there to try to steal their sand.”
Until the regulatory approval process is formulated, and a regional agreement is reached, Treasure Coast sand will not be available to Miami-Dade or any other planned renourishment projects. Corps Officials are hoping to begin dredging for the Miami project by December 2015. Unless the process bears fruit, jurisdictions will have to rely on other sand sources.
Sand from Inland Mines
Although structurally and aesthetically ideal - and a regulatory no-brainer, sand trucked in from inland mines is expensive. Even if conducted with military precision, moving 20,000 truckloads of sand through local communities to coastal distribution sites could prove a strategic nightmare. Broward beach boss Eric Myers is currently planning such a campaign for our long delayed $45 million Segment II renourishment. 750,000 cubic yards of sand will be trucked from three upstate mines to beachfront staging areas in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, the Galt Mile and Lauderdale Beach. Since local residents have been passionately fighting to realize this beach fix for decades, it is likely that the trucks will be met with more cheers than complaints.
|TRUCKING SAND TO BEACH STAGING AREAS|
While recycling beer bottles into sand may soon kill two environmental birds with one stone, the converted glass must first be approved as an adequate replacement for Broward beach sand. Initially proposed as a fill for small beach gaps, glass cullet is undergoing regulatory testing. Given the excellent results to date, Broward Mayor Kristen Jacobs is seeking to revive a stalled $1.5 million plan to complete the final phase of a county environmental study. In 2008, a $1,447,000 Broward plan to dump 3,000 tons of recycled glass on a Hollywood Beach was waxed by budget cuts.
|VARIABLE SEA URCHIN ON RECYCLED GLASS SUBSTRATE|
Since there is no local facility capable of recycling glass into sand, production costs are unclear. Myers noted, “It’s environmentally feasible, you have to make it economically feasible.” If determined cost effective, Broward’s entry in this new industry could flourish, given the built-in South Florida customer base. Among the project’s ardent supporters, Mayor Jacobs said, “If we could generate our own sand, it would be fantastic.” However, fellow Commissioner Tim Ryan is skeptical, “My sense of it is, if it was economically feasible, currently there would be some private entity that would have stepped in and would have acquired some site to convert this glass into glass sand.”
|GLASS SAND TESTED ON BEACH|
Bahamian sand, while convenient, plentiful, aesthetically pleasing and relatively inexpensive, may as well be on Mars. Under United States law, the Army Corps of Engineers must be convinced that domestic sand is not available for economic or environmental reasons before it can authorize the use of foreign sand. Bahamian sand is a good fit for Broward beaches. If the grain size of imported sand is too fine, it can easily be washed away. Because Bahamian aragonite sand contains more shell fragments, it’s coarser, and stacks into a steeper slope on the beach, which slows tidal erosion. Sand from other Caribbean or Gulf sources like the Dominican Republic, the Turks and Caicos Islands, and Mexico lacks the appeal of nearby Bahamian aragonite, given the exorbitant cost of transporting the sediment a much greater distance.
|OCEAN CAY, BAHAMAS ARAGONITE MINING|
In July of 2007, Miami-Dade asked the federal government for permission to buy cheaper foreign sand from the Bahamas. After denying the request because Miami's application failed to state whether or not domestic sand was available for purchase, the Army Corp. of Engineers added that if the county’s report were revised and resubmitted with proof that no domestic sand is available, the request would be reconsidered. If the Treasure Coast counties thwart State and Federal attempts to regionalize sand management, it will provide the Corps with evidence of no suitable domestic source, enabling access to Bahamian aragonite for approved federal projects in sand-challenged counties. It would provide Miami-Dade and Broward with a viable alternative to buying sand from inland mines or sun bathing on empty Heinekens.