Of Florida's 1,200-plus miles of coastline, a little more than 800 miles consist of beaches, which are subject to a variety of environmental forces. The State of Florida educational pamphlet "Florida's Beaches and Shores" puts it this way: "The beach and dune system are a dynamic environment. Together, the beach and dunes are subject to change from wind, waves, tides, and storms. Waves are constantly working the sand within the system by erosion (the loss of sand) or accretion (the build up of sand). Sand washes onto the beach from sandbars (underwater sand ridges) found within the nearshore (water close to shore). During storms, sand is eroded from the beach to the sandbars."
Of course, wind and water aren't the only forces moving sand around on the beach. There's also man. Town, county, state, and federal governments are continually working to slow, halt, or reverse the forces of nature along the shore. This spring, that battle is happening all around the Florida coast.
In Longboat Key, it's a town problem, reports ABC station WWSB (see: "Longboat Key battles beach erosion," by Bobeth Yates). "For years the town of Longboat Key has been dealing with rapid beach erosion on the northern end of the barrier island," the station reports. "In 2011 we put down $4 million worth of sand, and in seven months it was all gone," Town Manager Dave Bullock said. Now, Florida authorities have granted the town a permit to add more sand to the beach and to build concrete "groins" intended to slow the erosion process.
In Ponte Vedra, near Jacksonville, beach erosion is a county-level emergency, reports ActionNewsJax.com (see: "County leaders have new plan to stop beachfront erosion," by Romney Smith). "More than a dozen homes in South Ponte Vedra are close to collapsing on the Beach because of erosion," the station reports. "The weather conditions led St. Johns County to issue a second state of emergency for a strip of homes along AIA/South Ponte Vedra Boulevard."
After declaring an emergency in February, St. Johns County authorities constructed a seawall to protect houses, but sand has covered that wall. Now, the county has plans to remove that seawall and replace it with a bigger one.
April storms prompted the county to extend its emergency declaration, giving homeowners time to get permits for measures to protect their properties, according to a report by local station WJXT (see: "Ponte Vedra Beach erosion emergency extended," by Kent Justice). Neal Shinkre, Public Works Director for the county, said: "Our engineers look at this, monitor the situation. When it comes within the 20 feet, we feel it can cause habitable harm to the house. That's when we call for an emergency."
The station has a video report here (see: "Battling erosion in St. Johns County," by Kent Justice). "With the ocean roaring nearby as the storm arrived Friday, the beaches bottomed out and left worried homeowners wondering if they can stop the loss of land," the station reports.
Farther south in Flagler County, authorities are taking a longer view, and looking for Federal involvement, reports the Sun Sentinel (see: "Army Corps beach erosion fix in Flagler would cost $43.4M," by Associated Press.) "A new report estimates it will cost $43.4 million over 50 years to create a 10-foot seaward extension of existing dune and berm," the paper reports. "The plan calls for construction in phases. The initial construction would be followed by four 'periodic renourishments' over 50 years."