Friday, March 03, 2006

Beach Restoration Award

I’d like to congratulate Mayor Bob Pinkerton for receiving the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association award for SPI having one of the top “restored beaches” in the United States. I really like Bob’s unflinching dedication to making our beaches being a top contender, both nationally and worldwide. To Bob I tip my hat!

That said, 2005 was a rather difficult year for SPI beaches. In January the dredge named Millenium cut a little bit too deep into the Rio Grande mud, with resulting clays being deposited up as far as the Wanna restaurant. The project went over its schedule and only covered a relatively small part of beach that actually needed the material (377,000 cubic yards). That is because the lower part of SPI (Isla Blanca to Oleander Street) is actually gaining sand, called accretion. Here’s a picture of the “clay turd machine” taking a well-deserved rest after all that pooting.

Then over the summer and fall Emily, Katrina and Rita waves wiped out a large amount of the dune systems. Many dunes were cut way back, almost vertical. The results were rather shocking. This was not a good year for the beaches.

In December there was some public support for dune enhancement projects, given the horrendous damage to the dunes and the probability of obtaining some used Christmas trees. After some political football, since the town didn’t want thousands of trees and surfers running everywhere, the Town took over the project, with a total of exactly 13 trees and several bales of hay and some snow fencing. While not impressive, it was a great start and very appreciated.

In February 2006 the Brownsville Herald announced that an agreement was reached to dredge the Brazos Santiago Pass, since it had silted up to the point that large ships could no longer get over the sandbar – by now the “best surf break in Texas.” Congressman Solomon Ortiz was instrumental in obtaining the emergency funding.

However, there were no funds for restoring the north end of the beach with the dredge spoils, and the material was shipped out to a dump site several miles out to sea. And dumped. Unlike the material in the Channel, however, the sands being dredged were pure “marine sands” without hardly any clay content, being perfect for beach restoration (170,000 cubic yards).

It could have been pumped onshore using a hopper dredge instead of the cutter-suction dredges like the Millenium, but alas, there was not enough time to arrange the financing. I would ask the Town to explore use of the hopper dredge technology for mining marine sands instead of laying ugly pipes down the beach, which would pump high-clay materials back on the lower part of the beach. Here’s a picture of a hopper dredge, loaded down and with jumping dolphins in the bow wake. Yes, they can pump the sand back on the beach and reach the northern end of the Island where we need the help. Think about it.

1 comment:

Lucinda said...

So do they give an award for DUNE restoration? All that beach is lovely but it ain't gonna protect my ground level condo from a bigger and nearer-miss Rita. Frankly I am pissed that our BOA can't get its shit together enough to insist that condo complexes like Suntide II start allowing dunes to grow between them and the surf. How much hurricane-sponsored mayhem do folks have to witness before they take action????