March 27, 2012
Contact: Ken or Kate Gooderham, ASBPA executive directors -- (239) 489-2616
Harry Simmons, ASBPA president -- (910) 200-7867
My beach is gone…now what?
What do you need to know when your sand starts to go?
You’re a property owner along the coast, and you’ve been watching the waves creep closer and closer to landward year after year. You’ve concluded that you have a coastal erosion problem. What to do next?
There’s no easy answer. If every new rainfall convinced you that you need a new roof, you could ask your neighbors for suggestions about who you could call. But, with erosion, your neighbors may be in the same boat as you – watching the sand disappear and not knowing what to do about it.
So it’s time to start asking some questions. Here’s a place to start:
- “How much danger am I in?”
If your home is seriously threatened, you need to act quickly. The best first step here is to contact your local government immediately, since that’s likely where any action needs to start. Even in serious situations, remedies may take months (if not longer) to put into place -- time you may not have if a storm blows in.
- “Is this problem temporary or permanent?”
Sand comes and goes. Maybe you see a problem certain times of year that diminish when the seasons change. If it is seasonal, you may want to wait and watch, documenting the best you can with photographs taken at the same stage of the tide cycle. However, if it the sand loss appears permanent, the next question is …
- “How much shoreline does the erosion seem to be impacting?”
This allows you to determine if it’s a hot-spot issue (an isolated loss in an otherwise healthy coastal system) or the sign of something more pernicious that impacts a number of coastal properties besides yours. If so, you then can go to your local government (often this information is online) and get names and addresses of your fellow sufferers. You are going to need to work as a group.
- “How can I get more information about what’s going on along my coastline?”
There is a great deal of information on the Internet that can be helpful. A caution is that you must be discerning and vet your information. There are people who want you to buy a system from them; remember that they have a vested interest in it. There are people who think that all erosion control is bad always. The world is not that black and white. There are sites that have generally good information on coastal processes(with some errors), but are focused on other parts of the world; Wikipedia is an example of that.
- Is there already a mechanism in place to address local coastal issues?
The next step is a visit your local government. Jurisdictions handle the issue in myriad ways, so this may take a few calls and some creative thinking. Try the departments that are responsible for public works, building permits and environment. In some areas the Convention and Visitors Bureau is responsible for coastal projects. Ask the person in charge of the approval process. This will let you know what is and isn’t allowed; there’s no sense getting your heart set on a groin that will never be approved. And if there’s no coastal advocate in your local government, you’re going to need to create one.
- What are our options to take action?
Now you need to start thinking about a coastal consultant such as a coastal engineer. Organizations such as the American Shore & Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA) have coastal professionals as members who are listed on its website (www.asbpa.org). This would give you a place to start looking.
This coastal professional is going to help you diagnose your coast’s problems, look into your options and provide you the most cost-effective ways of managing it. But you need to ask them a few questions to ensure you pick the right person:
1. What kind of experience has the person/firm had with coastal erosion problems? Anything similar to your problems? (That may help them hit the sand running.)
2. What kind of training has the person/firm had in dealing with coastal erosion? (If all their experience, say, is on lakes, addressing erosion issues on an Atlantic or Pacific coastline is going to be a very different experience for them.)
3. Does the person/firm only support one solution which is proprietary? (If so, that’s probably the one they’re going to recommend.)
4. Who in the firm will you work directly with? (If this is a “from scratch” project, you’ll need someone who can work well with the public and property owners.)
5. What experience does this person have in working in your state? (Many states require state approvals as well as local, and prefer people licensed in that state since they’re more experienced in dealing with its rules. Most projects require U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ approval.)
6. How do they approach solving coastal problems? (What’s their process, so you understand it up front.)
7. What do they need from you to get started?
These answers should provide you with a good starting point to get your arms around your erosion problems – but your work is just beginning. (We’ll address the next step in a future article.) The biggest point to remember: Coastal erosion took a long time to get to the point of being a problem. Solving them will take a long time as well… so be patient as well as persistent.
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ABOUT ASBPA: Founded in 1926, the ASBPA promotes the integration of science, policies and actions that maintain, protect and enhance the coasts of America. For more information on ASBPA, go to www.asbpa.org, facebook or www.twitter.com/asbpa.