Pounding from storms Irma and Maria has eroded beaches — and county cash


Highlights

Erosion near Jupiter from sustained winds during Irma

Carlin Park in Jupiter, Juno Beach sustain heavy erosion from Irma

Erosion from Hurricanes Irma and Maria scraped about 1.4 million cubic yards of sand from Palm Beach County beaches that will cost about $40 million to replace, county officials say.

That’s more damage than Hurricane Matthew caused last year. Jupiter resident Bill Taylor, who was surfing Wednesday afternoon at Jupiter Civic Center on the north end of Carlin Park, wasn’t surprised.

READ: Hurricane Mathew caused about $29 million in beach erosion

“We’ve had sustained rough seas from the two storms for two weeks,” said Taylor, 63, who captains the Black Dog charter fishing boat. “Usually, you get three to five waves and a lull. We’ve has steady waves with no lull.”

VIEW: Summary of erosion damage and estimated costs to Palm Beach County beaches

North county beaches were among the worst hit, according to Palm Beach County Environmental Resources Management officials. About a third of the total of 450 feet of dry beach lost to the storms was from beaches on Singer Island and north.

“The erosion from Matthew was localized, whereas Irma resulted in loss along the entire coastline,” said Julie Mitchell, programs supervisor with ERM.

SEE: Erosion photos and videos in north Palm Beach County

Boca Raton’s beaches suffered “several million dollars” worth of damage from Irma, Mayor Susan Haynie said following the storm.

“The dunes got crushed,” Chrissy Gibson, city spokeswoman, said of the extensive erosion.

During Hurricane Irma, wind-whipped storm surge was considered moderate in Palm Beach County with a gauge at the Lake Worth Pier measuring 2.23 feet of surge on Sept. 10. Miami-Dade County beaches suffered worse impacts from surge, with nearly 4 feet of water pushed ashore by Irma.

Who will pay the $40 million?

County officials will first knock on the door of the federal government. ERM officials will forward the $40 million estimate to the state, with will review it and send it to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for reimbursement.

The Army Corp of Engineers may also to pick up part of the tab, said Robert Robbins, director of ERM.

But that doesn’t leave local government off the financial hook. Palm Beach County asked and Jupiter agreed to chip in $72,000 two years ago for beach re-nourishment.

About $14 million is spent annually in local, county, state and federal money to replenish the county’s 47 miles of shoreline between South Inlet Park in Boca Raton and Tequesta’s Coral Cove Park.

Sand can be brought to beaches in two ways: off-shore dredging or bringing it in from inland mines. Which source is best for new beach sand must be determined by the county.

With dredging, more sand can be delivered in a shorter time, beaches can be widened 200 feet or more, which means re-nourishment projects can be spread out to every seven to 10 years.

But dredging costs are increasing as high demand for sand requires more to be screened to meet beach standards.

Using inlet sand can avoid the cost of a dredge — the fee can be $1 million a project.

How much is a cubic yard of sand?

A single dump truck holds 18 cubic yards of sand. It would take about 80,000 dump truck loads to bring in the 1.4 cubic yards of sand.

The re-nourishment must be done between Nov. 1 and Feb. 28 to protect nesting sea turtles. The county spends about $13 million annually on keeping up county beaches.

Beach re-nourishment protects one of the county’s greatest economic engines — tourism. The process also protects nesting sea turtles. And the beaches keep open A1A, an evacuation route during hurricanes and other emergencies, according to ERM officials.

Taylor said he had a suspicion this year was going to be big for storms. Sea turtles have been laying their eggs higher up in the dunes than usual this year.

“When the sea turtles lay their eggs up high in the dunes, the native-Americans say it’s going to be a big hurricane season,” he said.

Staff Writers Lulu Ramadan and Kim Miller contributed to this report.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

BREAKING: Man shot to death in Boynton Beach
BREAKING: Man shot to death in Boynton Beach

A man was shot and killed Sunday night at a Boynton Beach park where an estimated 50 people had assembled. The man, who was not identified by Boynton Beach Police, was found shortly after 8 p.m. when police responded to a call of shots fired at Caloosa Park, 1300 S.W. 35th Ave. Officers saw about 50 people quickly dispersing from a basketball court...
NEW: Protesters decry alleged animal abuse at Monkey Jungle
NEW: Protesters decry alleged animal abuse at Monkey Jungle

Closed since Hurricane Irma caused damage in September, Monkey Jungle is still drawing crowds. Unfortunately for the southern Miami-Dade County tourist attraction, the 50 people who showed up Sunday were there to protest what have been called "abysmal" conditions in which hundreds of animals live. A former employee recently accused the 80-year-old...
UPDATE: Toddler dies after being found in suburban Boca pond
UPDATE: Toddler dies after being found in suburban Boca pond

A toddler pulled from a pond in a suburban Boca Raton development Sunday afternoon has died, according to the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. Teri Barbera, director of public information for the sheriff’s office, said detectives are investigating the events that led to the child ending up in the pond. Palm Beach County Fire Rescue crews...
Pahokee favorite son and country music star Mel Tillis dies at 85
Pahokee favorite son and country music star Mel Tillis dies at 85

Mel Tillis, a humble boy from Pahokee who overcame a stubborn stutter to become one of the greatest country music stars of all time, died early Sunday morning at the Munroe Regional Medical Center in Ocala. He was 85. Tillis’ daughter, singer and songwriter Pam Tillis, posted on her Facebook page Sunday that the death was “sudden...
Trump in Palm Beach: President’s helicopter arrives. Will he use it?
Trump in Palm Beach: President’s helicopter arrives. Will he use it?

A huge Air Force transport plane flew over Mar-a-Lago Sunday afternoon before landing at Palm Beach International Airport where it delivered the presidential helicopter. But the delivery of the helicopter does not mean that President Donald Trump will use it to fly back and forth to Mar-a-Lago, where a new helipad was built on the back lawn of the...
More Stories