North county gets the worst of beach erosion


Some beaches lost sand; others gained sand

Erosion not as bad as from Hurricane Irma

A sign reading “No Beach” was on Palm Beach.

Surfers rejoiced and rode 12-footers near the Juno Beach Pier.

Waves lapped the steps leading up to the Jupiter Civic Center.

Surf crashed over the jetty at the Boynton Beach Inlet.

Last week’s big waves brought havoc and happiness to beaches from Boca Raton north to Tequesta in Palm Beach County.

“We tried Jupiter. That beach was closed. Then we came here. But there’s no beach to sit on,” said Tequesta resident Joe McGovern, who along with his wife, Diane, were in Coral Cove Park on Wednesday afternoon. Waves carved eight-foot drop-offs in front of the dunes.

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A full moon, higher-than-usual tides and the brutal winter storm that pounded the Northeast delivered a powerful punch comparable to hurricanes Irma and Matthew.

Longtime residents said swells were as high as the Halloween storm in 1991, known to many as the Perfect Storm.

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“It’s great when we get surf like this. The town gets a whole new vibe,” said Jupiter resident Ryan Berlin, who had just come ashore at Jupiter Beach Park on Tuesday from surfing in 10- to 12-foot waves south of the Jupiter Inlet.

READ: Last weekend’s big waves pummel north county beaches

North county beaches got the brunt of the damage.

Ocean Reef Park on Singer Island lost about 45 feet of dry beach. Jupiter Beach Park and Carlin Park beaches closed. Floor boards were pried off Juno Beach Pier.

Swooshing currents mostly kept boaters out of Jupiter Inlet. The parking lot at Jupiter Beach Park flooded. Waves crashed over the seawall at the Jupiter Reef Club. Beachwalkers swept away by powerful waves were rescued by lifeguards.

“Hurricane Irma and the storms last year deflated the beaches before they had a chance to naturally recover the sand. While extensive, the recent erosion was not as bad as it was from Hurricane Irma,” said Julie Mitchell, Palm Beach County Environmental Resource Management environmental program supervisor.

No dollar amount has been assessed for the erosion, said Mitchell.

Some south and central county beaches, such as Highland Beach, actually ended up with more sand, said Mitchell.

Twenty-foot waves pummeled the Lake Worth Pier on Monday, tearing off floorboards and damaging the lighting system. About $45,000 in damage was caused, said Ben Kerr, Lake Worth communications specialist.

Waves carried over the dunes north of the Boynton Inlet. Oceanfront Park in Boynton Beach had significant erosion. Dry beach was lost at South Inlet Park in Boca Raton.

Heavy erosion is nothing new to Palm Beach County.

Erosion from Hurricanes Irma and Maria scrapped about 1.4 million cubic yards of sand from Palm Beach County beaches. Replacing the sand will cost about $70 million, county officials say.

Hurricane Matthew caused about $29 million in damage in 2016.

“The damage from Hurricane Irma was pretty bad. Not since Hurricane Sandy and the Halloween storm in 1991 do I remember seeing this much erosion,” said Paul Stout, a hydro-geologist and 30-year Jupiter resident who was unloading his surfboard on a recent afternoon at Carlin Park.

READ: Dredging is big business in Palm Beach County

There is good news — for beachgoers and sea turtles.

Most of the sand scoured from beaches last week ended up not far from shore. Natural currents will bring that sand back to local beaches, said Mitchell.

The erosion came early in the sea turtle nesting season, which runs for eight months starting March 1. Few nests have been laid. Female sea turtles lay between three and seven nests in a season, according to Sarah Hirsch, research data manager at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach.

“The few turtles that have already nested are not done; they will return to lay more nests in the upcoming months,” Hirsch said via e-mail.

Plans to add new sand are already underway.

A dredge boat is scooping about 60,000 cubic yards of sand — about 3,300 dump-truck loads — from the man-made lane for boaters at the bottom the Jupiter Inlet. That sand will be pumped through a hydraulic hose to build up Jupiter Beach Park.

A special permit is required because the work is being done during the sea turtle nesting season. LMC officials will relocate any sea turtle nests on the beach where new sand is planned.

Read: Dredging to take three weeks in Jupiter Inlet

A $10 million project to dredge sand to build up beaches and restore dunes from the Jupiter Inlet south to Juno Beach is scheduled to begin in November 2019.

About $8 million is planned to be spent to build up Delray Beach’s oceanfront later this year.

READ: Upcoming Boat Show in West Palm Beach to have $1.2 M in boats, yachts, accessories

Proponents to replacing beach sand say the process protects one of the county’s greatest economic engines — tourism.

Hauling in sand also protects nesting sea turtles. The beaches keep open A1A, an evacuation route during hurricanes and other emergencies. And building up beaches protects the billions of dollars in beachfront residential and commercial property, they say.

Opponents counter dredging and trucking in sand is a waste of resources because, like a timeless seesaw, the ocean just takes the sand away and brings it back. They also say sucking up sand from the bottom harms coral reefs and sealife.

Palm Beach Post Staff Writers Kim Miller and Kevin Thompson contributed to this story.

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