Florida's miles of beautiful beaches may be natural wonders, but they're not entirely natural. State and federal governments pour millions of dollars every year into piling fresh sand up on those beaches. And now, reports the New York Times, some of Florida's beach areas are running out of raw material ("Where Sand Is Gold, the Reserves Are Running Dry," by Lizette Alvarez).
"In South Florida—Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties—concerns over erosion and the quest for sand are particularly urgent for one reason: There is almost no sand left offshore to replenish the beaches," the paper reports. "In these communities, sand is far from disposable; it is a precious commodity. So precious, in fact, that it has set off skirmishes among counties and has unleashed an intense hunt for more offshore sand by federal, state, and local officials who are already fretting over the next big storm. No idea is too far-fetched in this quest, not even a proposal to grind down recycled glass and transform it into beach sand. The once-shelved idea is now being reconsidered by Broward County."
The problem is local, not statewide: To the north in St. Lucie County and Martin County, there's still plenty of sand. Fifty years' worth, in fact, according to a Federal estimate. But those counties are not inclined to share. " 'What happens in 50 years when all that sand is gone?' asked Frannie Hutchinson, a St. Lucie County commissioner. 'Where are we supposed to go then? I told them to take their sand shovels and sand buckets and go home and come up with a better plan.' "
It's not just about sunbathing, said Jason Harrah, an Army Corps of Engineers project manager who oversees Miami-Dade beach restoration. " 'These beaches, people think they are recreational, but they are storm damage reduction,' Mr. Harrah said. 'They are meant to sacrifice themselves for the loss of property or life. In the event we have that kind of storm, we wouldn't have the means to replenish them.' "