Celebrating America’s beaches: ASBPA names its Best Restored Beaches for 2019
FORT MYERS, FL – From a childhood spent building sand castles to adolescent walks on the beach to adults enjoying family time, America’s beaches are synonymous with celebrating summer. With the beginning of the summer beach season a few days away, the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA) today released its much-anticipated annual list of the nation’s best restored beaches.
This year’s list provides representation from the mid-Atlantic, south Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf coasts.
The 2019 winners are:
- Caminada Headland, Louisiana
- South Padre Island, Texas
- Waypoint Park Beach, Bellingham, WA
- Duval County, Florida
While Americans joyfully celebrate beaches by visiting them, few understand what it takes to keep that beach special. ASBPA created the Best Restored Beach award as a way of highlighting the value of restored beaches. Beach erosion is the number one concern beach tourists have about beaches.
ASBPA and its partners have also developed a Beach Nourishment Database, to provide our members and the public with detailed information on U.S. beach nourishment projects at the national, state, and project level. The database is available at https://gim2.cbi.com/ASBPANationwideRenourishment/
Why should you want to visit a restored beach? Here’s the top reason, according to ASBPA President Tony Pratt – fun. Many of America’s most heavily used beaches are restored beaches – wide and sandy, providing abundant recreational opportunities for beachgoers.
“As summer 2019 approaches, people across the nation are dreaming of sun, surf and sand. Their time at the beach is very often the happiest times of their lives,” said Pratt. “We here at ASBPA take that love of the coast very seriously. We honor the efforts that go into managing and, when necessary, rebuilding the beaches that are in the hearts of so many vacationers.
“This year’s Best Restored Beach winners represent a wide variety of beach types that offer unique and varied attributes. I congratulate the winners for their hard work and for the beautiful beaches they have protected and enhanced,” said Pratt. “For more than 50 years, beach restoration has been the preferred method of shore protection in coastal communities. Beach restoration is the process of placing beach-quality sand on dwindling beaches to reverse or offset the effects of erosion.”
The benefits of healthy coasts are many:
- Storm protection – A wide sandy beach helps separate storm waves and other coastal hazards from upland structures and infrastructure.
- Habitat restoration – Numerous species rely on wide, healthy beaches as a place to live, feed, rest and nest.
- Recreation – America’s beaches are its largest national park, more than 40% higher than more than the numbers of visitors to all our federal and state parks and theme parks combined.
- Sea level rise: As climate changes trigger both higher sea levels and stronger storm events, a wide sandy beach remains the best protection from both encroaching seas and storm-driven waves. By adjusting their shoreline designs, communities across the country are able to protect upland habitat and properties by raising the profile of their beaches to counter projected sea level rise.
- Spend millions to save billions – Investing in infrastructure now saves money in re-building later.
During times of economic hardship, the beach can be an even more desirable vacation destination than other domestic and foreign alternatives, offering families and visitors an accessible and affordable getaway. It is also a jobs bonanza and tax generator– healthy coasts drive local economies:
- Beach tourism is responsible for 2.5 million jobs nationwide.
- Beaches help generate $225 billion a year for the national economy, contributing about $25 billion in federal tax revenue.
- Beach tourism generated $45 billion annually in taxes and returns $570 in federal taxes for each federal dollar spent.
- Beaches are the leading U.S. tourist destination for both national and international tourists.
- Well over half of the nation’s gross domestic product ($7.9 trillion) is generated in 673 counties along the oceans, Gulf and Great Lakes, according to NOAA’s National Ocean Economics Program.
To enter the Best Restored Beach competition, coastal communities nominated their projects for consideration, and an independent panel of coastal managers and scientists selected the winners. Judging was based on three criteria:
- The economic and ecological benefits the beach brings to its community;
- The short- and long-term success of the restoration project; and
- The challenges each community overcame during the course of the project.
According to Peter Seidle, chair of the Best Restored Beach Committee responsible for making the selections: “I look for commitment and dedication to the project. I want the applicant to make me love his or her beach. The committee also looks for unique solutions to unique problems, recognizing that every beach has its own challenges and opportunities that can be addressed and augmented by a well-executed restoration project.”
This year’s winners spotlight a diverse selection of beaches, ranging from protecting coastal headlands in the face of numerous natural and man-made disasters to providing a splash of nature in the midst of an urban and industrial setting. What they all have in common, however, is working creatively to address complex coastal issues in way that is sustainable and mitigate the ravages of nature, compatible with the surrounding environment and achievable in the face of both political and natural obstacles.
Here’s a brief overview of this year’s Best Restored Beaches:
Caminada Headland, Louisiana
The Caminada Headland Beach and Dune Restoration project represents the progress of the coastal restoration efforts after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico off the Louisiana coast. This project was selected as the largest coastal restoration effort constructed in Louisiana, restoring 13 miles of shoreline at a cost of $216 million.
Planning and design of this project had just begun when the Deepwater Horizon disaster occurred, and essential cleanup efforts delayed critical surveys. A tropical storm and a hurricane battered the Headland just prior to beach construction. Two other concurrent restoration projects on the Headland necessitated extensive coordination during beach construction.
The project restored more than 1,050 acres of beach and dune habitats by placing more than 8.8 million cubic yards of sand from the Ship Shoal Borrow Area more than 32 nautical miles from the project. Innovative measures such as robust monitoring and abatement tactics to reduce impacts were implemented to protect beach-nesting and migratory bird populations.
Nearly 200 sea turtles were successful relocated from the borrow area to adjacent foraging grounds, further demonstrating how beach restoration construction and the resident species can co-exist while creating an improved environment. More than 195,000 native plants and nearly 72,500 linear feet of sand fencing were installed to promote the conservation of sand on the island.
South Padre Island, Texas
The City of South Padre Island sits at the southern end of a unique Texas barrier island. This densely developed tourist destination coexists with some of the most pristine beaches on the Texas shoreline. The South Padre Island Beneficial Use of Dredged Material (BUDM) project was selected thanks to the innovative methods used to make it possible. This nearshore berm and sand tracing study involved multiple federal, state, NGOs, academic and local municipal entities assembled in less than six months.
The city has been conducting beach restoration activities for more than 30 years, including its long successful tradition of using this dredged sand material. This allows the city to remain a popular tourist destination while it continues to enhance the island’s dune and beach system. These efforts have helped stabilize the island, protecting the homes and business that lie west of the beach. The City of South Padre Island does not have a seawall, so it relies entirely on natural shoreline protection.
The BUDM project widened a portion of the city’s beach, yielding a higher quality public beach within the project area, increasing beach access, improving economic activity and associated tax revenues, reducing the cost of post-storm response, lessening infrastructure maintenance and relocations costs; enhancing habitat value in the healthy beach/dune system, and cutting future erosion response costs. Furthermore, widening the beach in front of private property protects those structures and residents by decreasing damage caused by storm events and their wave action, thus reducing insurance losses.
Waypoint Park Beach, Bellingham, WA
Bellingham’s Waypoint Park, named for the iconic industrial art installation (also known as the Acid Ball from the old GP paper mill) located in the new park, provides an opportunity for the entire community to enjoy otherwise limited access to the waterfront along this newly created beach. This park provides treasured waterfront access, uncommon in Bellingham’s urban waterfront, at a former brownfield site.
The restored beach is highlighted in contrast to the reminders of the community’s industrial past that make this park unique. The beach adds a natural element to the once fully armored and sand-starved shorelines along Whatcom Waterway which runs through the heart of the Bellingham, and significant investment has focused on improving and enhancing the habitat along the estuary’s edge.
The project design accounted for projected sea level rise and provided improved storm damage protection through its higher elevations along width of the beach, the stabilizing rock groin, placed logs, vegetation, and a gently sloping beach. The entire ecological community benefits from this project, which included isolating the underlying low level contaminated soils, added cobble and beach sediment for forage fish spawning and native plantings to create habitat and improve aesthetics.
The beach is used as a kayak launch site, which will soon be augmented by a restaurant, public market, and small boat rental facility in the adjacent refurbished 1930s Granary Building. The park incorporates non-motorized access for bikers and pedestrians, as well as paths compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act, allowing the entire community to enjoy the waterfront.
Duval County, Florida
The Duval County Shore Protection Project encompasses some of the most beautiful beaches along the U.S. eastern seaboard, attracting millions of tourists to visit Hanna Park, Atlantic Beach, Neptune Beach and Jacksonville Beach. It is unprecedented for a project team to complete back-to-back major sand renourishments on more than eight miles of shoreline after two major hurricanes — Matthew in 2016 and Irma in 2017 — all the while restoring critical sea turtle and bird nesting habitat, and completing the work with very minor cost increases.
This project exemplified how to execute and succeed in the face of compounding challenges associated with the magnitude of impacts from consecutive major hurricane years and navigating federal, state, and local procedural and procurement environments. Multiple stakeholders including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, City of Jacksonville, Olsen & Associates, beach communities and residents all worked to overcome obstacles. State and federal agencies worked tirelessly and accelerated normal process timeframes, making this project a model for other communities.
Hurricane Matthew caused a loss of about 680,000 cubic yards of sand from the beach. The stakeholders’ emergency preparedness and response restored the beach to pre-storm conditions in record time. This reduced the impacts resulting from Hurricane Irma, which caused a loss of roughly 660,000 cubic yards of sand.
The Corps of Engineers was able to take advantage of existing beach construction contracts to cost-effectively repair the shoreline after the impacts of Hurricane Matthew, and again following Irma. The project team showed dedication, hard work and commitment in achieving unprecedented project goals and schedules.
A complete list of award-winning beaches, and more information about beach restoration and ASBPA, is available online at www.asbpa.org. Winners will be honored during ASBPA’s annual Coastal Summit held in Washington, DC, in March 2020.
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