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Update on Beach Conditions in the Wake of Hurricanes & King Tides [Video]

By Michele Dargan, Special for the Civic Association —  A man was seen casting his fishing line into the “ocean” from the sidewalk of Midtown Beach last week.

The residual effects of Hurricane Irma – combined with subsequent rough weather – sent ocean waves crashing into the seawall at high tide. The impact sprayed water over the seawall, dousing people on the sidewalks and cars driving by on South Ocean Blvd.
In addition, the beach access stairway at the south end of Midtown Beach is closed because the sand has washed away and the stairway isn’t touching the beach.

The town’s Coastal Program Manager Rob Weber said the post-Irma shoreline condition – compounded with other storms and excessively high king tides – has accelerated erosion in the Midtown area. King tides are extremely high tides that occur usually during a full moon.

When the tides increase in size, and the king tides raise water elevation by a foot or more, rough waves can crash higher up on the shore, Mr. Weber said.

“Much of the sand that has been removed from the dry beach, and has been deposited in the nearshore sand bar, is expected to return to the beach naturally,” he said.

Fall and winter ocean waves and currents take sand off the beach. Summer currents bring sand back on the beach.
In addition, another groin will be added when the Midtown groins are rehabilitated in the next year, Mr. Weber said. A groin is a rigid coastal structure that interrupts water flow and limits the movement of sand.

“The south end of Midtown, specifically near Gulfstream Road, has previously been identified as a ‘hot spot’ by both the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the town,” he said. “A groin has been permitted by the state through the 2013 Beach Management Agreement to address this hot spot.”

Midtown Beach Conditions Hi-Tide vs. Lo-Tide [Video: 1 min]

10-26-2017 Midtown Beach Erosion Conditions from Palm Beach Civic Association on Vimeo.

Town Councilwoman Maggie Zeidman said that retaining sand on Midtown Beach and Clarke Avenue Beach has been a problem even before the recent storms. The Shore Protection Board is looking at the island in its entirety and figuring out specific interests in Midtown, she said.

“All of the stakeholders – The Breakers, the town, and the people who live on the ocean – are working together to solve a big problem that we have in Midtown,” Ms. Zeidman said. “Everyone is on the same page trying to figure out the best solution to the problem, which includes other interested parties such as the Surfrider Foundation, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.”

The Breakers reconstructed its existing breakwaters and groins in 2012, but erosion continues to persist from the Breakers south to Midtown Beach.

At the Oct. 6 meeting of the Shore Protection Board, Mike Jenkins, an engineer and town consultant with Applied Technology & Management, presented a plan that would add groins as well as improvements to existing groins. The earliest construction could begin is late 2018, with a target for completion in 2019, he said. The board voted 7-0 in favor of recommending the plan to the Town Council.

Geographic Parameters of the Town’s Coastal Divisions

The town is divided into eight geographic areas – called “reaches” – for purposes of managing the coastal protection.
The parameters of each reach are: Reach 1 – Lake Worth Inlet to Onondaga, Reach 2 – Onondaga to El Mirasol, Reach 3 – El Mirasol to Via Bethesda, Reach 4 – Via Bethesda to Banyan Road, Reach 5 – Banyan Road to Widener’s Curve, Reach 6 – Widener’s Curve to Sloan’s Curve, Reach 7 – Sloan’s Curve to Lake Worth Pier, Reach 8 – Lake Worth Pier to the southern town limits.

Lo-tide this week. Not much dry beach.

Midtown Beach is part of Reach 4. It was renourished in 2015 as part of a $17 million beach nourishment project.

“Supplemental sand was placed through dune restoration within several sections of Midtown in 2016,” Mr. Weber said. “Earlier this year, a few thousand cubic yards of sand was placed through dune restoration at the southern end of Midtown Municipal Beach between Hammon Avenue and Via Marina. The next planned project for Midtown is in 2021. Should FEMA funding become available, an interim project could be performed sooner.”

The beaches at the north end of the island are slated to receive sand as early as Dec. 1, Mr. Weber said. The area encompasses all of Reach 1 and the northernmost sections of Reach 2. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers contractor will dredge the Lake Worth Inlet and place sand on the dry beach between the Lake Worth Inlet and Palmo Way, Mr. Weber said.

“Thank goodness the Army Corps of Engineers is scheduled to dredge the inlet this winter,” said Town Councilwoman Bobbie Lindsay, who previously served as a member of the Shore Protection Board. “This will help Reach 2, which always had one of the biggest sand deficits. This is the first time that part of Reach 2 will receive any sand.

“The September and October weather has really done a number on our beaches and moved the sand into the nearshore off the beach,” Ms. Lindsay said. “After the hurricane this year, we got rough weather and big surf and that made it worse. The beaches appear eroded and we won’t know how serious until the end of the season and we see what sand comes back. You can see it. The sand is still there, and it will come back.”

Following Hurricane Irma, the town immediately cleaned up the large amounts of sand on the roadways in the area of Dunbar Road and Root Trail, Ms. Zeidman said. Using heavy industrial front-bucket loaders, they scooped up the displaced sand and put it back on the beach, she said.

Regarding sand on the roadways throughout the town, Mr. Weber said, “Sand was found in the roads in Reaches 2, 3, 4, 6, and 7. This included areas where the town has placed sand and where the town has not placed sand. While most of the sand has been removed from the roadways, there are still some street sweeping activities ongoing. Sand removal efforts were performed by the town, town contractors, and Florida Department of Transportation contractors – depending on the location and whether sand removal was the responsibility of the town or the state.

Mr. Weber suggests that any resident wanting more information about beach erosion and coastal protection should attend the next Shore Protection Board meeting at 9 a.m. Friday, Nov. 3 in the Town Council Chambers. Mr. Weber provides coastal updates at every meeting.

“We’ve seen greater impacts to the dunes in many areas of the town,” Mr. Weber said. “After we have events like Irma and the nor’easters that followed, the beach itself has narrowed and the elevation of the beach is lowered. During high tide, it allows the water from the ocean to run over the beach and in some cases into the dune or into the seawall area. Where sand has been deposited from the storms into the sandbars, the sand will slowly make its way back into the beach area. The back and forth movement of sand between the beach and the sand bar is a seasonal condition that occurs each year. It’s something that I, and others, continue to monitor.”