Thread: No Seawalls In Walton County
04-06-2007, 02:16 PM #1
No Seawalls In Walton County
04-06-2007, 09:30 PM #2
Re: No Seawalls In Walton County
Anti-seawall Arguments Are Soggy
The following op-ed was written by PLF Principal Attorney Dave Breemer.
A sturdy seawall can do what the legendary commands of King Canute couldn’t: Hold back the tide.
When a coastal property is in danger of being eaten away by the ocean’s erosive force, a freestanding wall, or concrete reinforcement of a bluff, can halt the water’s advance and give the land a long lease on life.
Isn’t that a good thing? Beachside property owners would certainly think so. Ditto, one suspects, for most people who use public parks, roads or trails that hug the coast. But there are government officials in California who don’t seem to agree. In cases where the ocean is gradually wearing away the land, some regulators are starting to side with the tide—and against the building of seawalls.
Rigid environmentalists have been prodding coastal bureaucracies in this direction for some time. The seawalls-are-evil crowd scored a big victory in late 2003 when they persuaded the California Coastal Commission to nix Santa Cruz County’s plan to build a wall to protect East Cliff Drive, a popular road and pedestrian path, perched spectacularly above a surfing beach. Now, the drive is doomed to eventual collapse. The eventual loss of access for the public is only part of the price: The cost of this “victory” for environmentalism also includes the tens of millions of tax dollars that will be needed to relocate water, sewer and gas lines.
“Let the land erode” is the seawall foes’ philosophy. They’ve given the strategy a somewhat Orwellian title: “Planned Retreat.” Their ideal is to bar all seawalls—not just those that buttress public roads and protect beachside parks, but also those that shield private land. They would happily watch ocean-side homes crash onto the beaches below, with taxpayers picking up the tab to reimburse owners and clean up the beaches.
Beyond ideological fervor, the seawall haters’ position doesn’t have much going for it. They claim that seawalls somehow cause massive sand displacement that can make beaches disappear over time. However, they get an argument from the experts. Ocean engineering specialists up and down the state agree with R.L. Weigel, professor emeritus, at UC Berkley, that “seawalls, in general, do not cause long-term beach erosion.” Where beaches give way to the ocean, the main cause is rising sea levels. There isn’t compelling evidence that a properly engineered seawall will speed up that process.
“There are many examples [in California] of stable beaches that have not eroded perceptively during the past 50 years, in spite of being backed with well-sited seawalls at the back of the beach,” observes Dr. Richard J. Seymour, chief of the Ocean Engineering Research Group at the Scripps Institute.
A 1990 study by the National Research Council (affiliated with the National Academy of Sciences), concurred: “Properly engineered seawalls and revetments can protect the land behind them without causing adverse effects to the fronting beaches.”
Another anti-seawall claim—that walls deaden the surf by causing a shift in sand patterns—is also soggy. Many, if not most, of the best surf breaks in California are formed by reefs and jutting points, not sand bars. Others are located relatively far from shore. Fluctuating sand levels are of little consequence, as you can see at Rincon, Malibu, Cardiff and other California beaches where surfers still catch vigorous waves even though nearby homeowners have erected walls to stave off storm surges. Seawalls have protected beach homes for decades, but no one has yet identified a surf break that was destroyed as a direct result.
Nevertheless, seawall foes keep lobbying. Last month in Solano Beach, in San Diego County, the planning staff gave serious consideration to a “planned retreat” proposal that would have banned seawalls even for homeowners. Reason prevailed and the scheme was shelved ... for now.
To overzealous environmentalists, the real problem with seawalls is that they’re “unnatural.” (Don’t let these folks near the Netherlands; they might faint from the horror of seeing an entire country thriving where the ocean was “unnaturally” pushed back!) “Planned retreat” is simply the latest tool for derailing development in the name of a coastal utopia.
But for the family whose house is threatened by erosion or the elderly person who can access the coast only by car, the anti-seawall extremist’s dream is a nightmare, and a stabilizing seawall is a thing of beauty. Robert Frost famously wrote that “good fences make good neighbors.” In California, public officials must be reminded that good seawalls often make good sense.
04-06-2007, 09:41 PM #3
Re: No Seawalls In Walton County
Journey to Planet Earth
Sea Turtle Biologist
We’re here at Vero Beach, Florida, which is located on the east coast. It’s just south of the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, which is one of the most important sea turtle nesting beaches in the world, certainly the most important in the United States. We’re standing in front of a giant sea wall, which was built a few years back to protect a number of homes in this area that were increasingly vulnerable to erosion.
This sort of structure is one of the most significant threats to sea turtle nesting habitat here in Florida, and this particular wall is a very controversial part of the history of the battle between beachfront development, and the protection of sea turtle nesting habitat.
As this wall was being built, a number of organizations, including the Caribbean Conservation Corporation, challenged the construction of the wall as being illegal.
For the last fifty years, a number of organizations have been trying their hardest to learn as much as we can about sea turtles, and try to protect them throughout their range. A lot of people ask, “why are sea turtles so important? Why should we be saving them?” One of my immediate answers is these creatures, they’re a beautiful part of the natural world, and we ought to save them because it’s the right thing to do. But, there are also a lot of important economic arguments that are important to we as humans.
Sea turtles are very important parts of the marine and ecosystem. Each species plays a very important role in the health of different ecosystems. Because turtles must return to the beach to deposit their eggs in the sand, they’re one of the few marine creatures that brings all of the nutrients of the sea back to the land. This has been found to be very important in sustaining the health and welfare of beach and dune systems, which of course protects upland property, and creates a beautiful environment for us to all go to the beach and enjoy sunbathing and recreation. So everywhere sea turtles are found, whether
it’s on coral reefs or sea grass beds, or on the beaches where they nest, they fill a very important ecological role and help sustain the health of those ecosystems.
Well the battle to protect sea turtles is one that is closely linked to the way we manage our coastline. Sea turtles are forever linked to the land because they must return here to nest, and so we humans have an important responsibility to protect their nesting habitat.
In Florida, that means we have to do a really good job of protecting nesting beaches from inappropriate development. There are all kinds of houses and structures built on the beach, such as this sea wall behind me, and that impedes turtles trying to return to nest.
It’s very important to protect nesting beaches, because for hundreds of years turtles have been nesting there and for hundreds, hopefully thousands of years in the future they’ll be coming back to that very same spot to nest. We need to do everything we can to protect those nesting beaches and keep them healthy.
One of the things that’s really a concern to those of us in Florida is how sea level rise and global warming are going to impact turtle nesting beaches. When you do things like build sea walls on the beach you’re drawing a line in the sand and saying, “this is where the edge of the beach can come to, and everything in front is available to turtles, but everything behind is locked up”…for homes or swimming pools or parking lots or roads.
And that’s just not going to work over the long term. At some point, as the sea level continues to rise, we’re going to lose our nesting beaches.
We need to decide what we’re going to do about that. Are we going to protect the nesting beach? Are we ‘going to re-nourish the beaches, continually dumping sand at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars a year, or, are we going to consider retreating from the coast in a managed way. --maybe having the state or the federal government, conservation groups, buy out beachfront property owners so that we can allow the beach to move back when sea level rises. These are some of the controversial issues being considered now, and part of the public debate about how to manage our coast for the long-term preservation of sea turtles.
When it comes to saving sea turtles there’s lots of good news. There are places along the beach like Tortuguerro, Costa Rica, Panama, even right here in the Archie Carr Refuge in Florida, where a lot of wonderful things have been done to recover sea turtle populations.
There’s really good news from a lot of these beaches, so I’m encouraged that people can save sea turtles if we stick to it. If we protect nesting beaches they will nest successfully and rebound on their own, essentially. But we need to do a better job of managing their beaches.
In Florida that means controlling unregulated beachfront development, and really doing everything we can to eliminate the construction of sea walls like that one behind me. I’m optimistic that people care and they’re willing to do what it takes to save turtles. We just need to make sure that our politicians, our decision-makers at the national, state, and local level realize that people care enough to make hard decisions to save turtles. It can be done.
One of the things that we like to say, because often it’s very important to try to make an economic argument, that saving the environment is good for the economy, and not just something that’s going to cost people money. In the case of sea turtles, it’s very true because what’s good for turtles is good for the economy. If it’s good for turtles, it’s good for tourism. Who wants to come spend a day at the beach in the shadow of a 30-foot high or 20-foot high sea wall? It’s just not a natural beach experience. People often say that one of the main reasons they come to Florida, or any other place, is to experience the natural environment there. In Florida we’re gradually losing our natural beaches because of the construction of sea walls and other artificial beaches, so if we can get things like that under control, we’re going to protect our natural beaches and continue to have a place that tourists are going to want to come to and recreate.
I often like to say that sea turtles are an amazing species, they’ve been around for a hundred, hundred and fifty million years. This is a fairly heavily populated area of the state of Florida, and just up the beach from this seawall is the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge. There are 20 thousand turtle nests every year in that refuge, and there are people who also live all along the refuge. It’s a 20-mile stretch of beach that is the most important loggerhead nesting beach in the western hemisphere, and one of the most important green turtle beaches anywhere as well.
People can co-exist with sea turtles. Although this is a very important turtle nesting beach, people live all along the beach as well. By taking a few simple steps during the summer months, like keeping their lights dim, avoiding a lot of night-time activity on the beach, turtles are thriving on the beach. In the marine environment we have to do things like control certain fishing activities in different areas, which are also a major threat to turtles.
For instance, with the shrimp trawling industry, a number of years ago, people developed turtle excluder devices, which help turtles escape while their trawls are pulling the nets in the water. This was a very important development, it allowed the shrimp industry to continue and saved a lot of turtles in the process. We need to continue to think about ways that we can improve commercial fishing like the long line fishing industry, so that it minimizes the impacts to marine turtles, because that’s one of the few areas left where they’re still having a very significant impact on the survival of sea turtles.
Re: No Seawalls In Walton County
Your first posted article has some merit. However, it doesn't truthfully represent the situation regarding major storms coming onshore and what impact seawalls will have on removing the beach when the constant pounding of wave action begins hitting those walls. On a normal day, the seawalls will not see the wave action. However, when we have water hitting against them, such as when we have major storms come even as far away as Louisiana, we will see the sand which is currently our beach removed, and it will take years or dredging and nourishment to replace it. Until all of the sand is replaced to make the water's edge farther away from the walls, the beach will not exist. If you did a bit more research, you would see the huge gap in the argument which you post.
04-07-2007, 02:05 PM #5
Re: No Seawalls In Walton County
I find your replies interesting because they are contradictory. I did notice that your first post had some opinions interjected, and I disagree with almost all of them. Seawalls are destructive, and I can back this with both studies and personal experience. I lived in West Palm Beach Florida for three years. These beaches are completely covered with seawalls, and yes in fact the seawalls change everything. As smilingJoe said, when large storms come in the wave action does ten times the amount of damage to the beaches. Show me one beach that has a seawall with natural dunes in front. Beaches with seawalls are always flat unless you pile large rocks in front. In West Palm Beach they dredged the beaches every year at a cost of approximately 11 million dollars. The irony of this was that just ten miles down the road there were beaches with no seawalls that never needed to be replenished. The natural vegetation simply absorbed the waves energy reducing the destructive affects. Sure these beaches received some wear, but it was never more than what the beach could replenish before the next storm. I remember one particular year the county dredged, making the beach 100 yards wider. Two days after they finished the project a medium sized storm came through and washed away 50 yards of the beach. Your argument about not affecting surf breaks is also incorrect. I have been a surfer for over sixteen years now, and have first hand knowledge of seawall affects on surf breaks. One thing you seem to have forgotten is that Florida is all sand breaks, so any seawall is going to affect the surf. California may be all reefs and rock, but Florida is not.
I have also never seen a seawall in a tourist community that was not covered in graffiti. If you think those tourists (and locals for that matter) who already leave trash on the beaches aren't going to write "Billy and Wendy spring break 2007" on every inch of a seawall, then you need to visit the tourist beaches in Florida that have seawalls.
As for the homeowners who own beach front property, BAD INVESTMENT.
They have no right to desecrate our beaches because they wanted that perfect ocean view. If these homeowners want to put huge ugly walls on the beaches then I should have the right to sit in their back yard so I don't have to look at the wall. No one owns the beach, so no one has the right to put up concrete or metal walls on it. If your home falls into the gulf, you should have to pay to have it cleaned up. I do agree that the county or state should start buying back these properties. Any human who thinks that they can control or alter nature is foolish, and it is this mentality that has gotten us into the situation we are in with Global Warming. It is time for people to stand up and say enough is enough, no more destruction of our natural resources.
04-08-2007, 05:09 PM #6
Re: No Seawalls In Walton County
Maybe just me but I would think that most people would see that I posted to contrary opinions mainly for discussion. It plainly indicates that I did not write either one of the posts but that they were reposts. Maybe something that many here do not see. I personally am not a scientist and have no opinion on this issue since I do not live on the beach. But since Walton County has been fortunate enough to hire the only beach scientist that knows anything about Walton County beaches, maybe we should turn to him and find out what he says. With what the taxpayers are paying him, I figure that if he says it is okay, then fine, if he says it is not, then that is fine also. But a decision needs to be made. Right now the BCC seems bent on creating a seawall inspection department to do nothing but review armoring techniques and discuss their merits. Blackshear is going to have the biggest kingdom in government soon if it is not stopped. All someone needs to do is make a decision. Then time will tell.
As for years to rebuild, Opal hit in 1995 I think, Ivan in 2004, quite a bit of rebuidling was on its way at little cost to us thanks to Mother Nature. The problem seems to be that we have built to close to the water's edge so that the natural destruction of the beach can occur and then the next 25 or so year lull in activity will allow that to rebuild. Now people are starting to understand why the Coastal Construction Line was not a bad idea.
04-10-2007, 12:39 AM #7
Re: No Seawalls In Walton County
When I was reading your posts I was late for a meeting. After a second look I noticed the first post was written by someone else. I apologize for implying that was your opinion.
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