Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Editor(s) at The Palm Beach Post: “Beach replenishment is kind of dumb.”

UPDATE: The editor(s) at the Post think beach replenishment is dumb. But they support doing it anyhow. And below is a blog post from last September which includes the twisted reasoning why. It is truly mind-numbing.

However, what you might find very interesting is the list of projects on the “County Penny Sales Tax Capital Improvement Projects” list. For example, the Lake Lytal Family Aquatic Center will be getting a new pool and playground area.

Being a regular visitor to the Lake Lytal pool can tell you it is very well maintained but is falling apart. It was constructed about the same time as the municipal pool at the Lake Worth Beach. The lifeguards tell me when they fix one thing another thing breaks. But the good news is Palm Beach County will be constructing a new pool and playground area while the current pool remains open. If you’ve never been to Lake Lytal you should go and check it out some time.

The County list of projects is seven pages long and funded by a ¢1 sales tax increase. If you recall, the referendum to increase the sales tax passed by a wide margin in November 2016. So maybe the editor(s) at the Post can go over this project list (note link above in 2nd paragraph) and strike through a few or a lot of projects to come up with the $5.2M to fix the beaches in some very wealthy towns here in Palm Beach County.

Without further ado, the blog post from last week. . .

In this blog post are excerpts from a mind-numbing editorial in the Post published on September 9th and excerpts from an article titled “The Folly of Beach Restoration” by scientist John Englander published on Sept. 11th.

The editor(s) at the Post think Palm Beach County and the coastal communities and cities need to spend more public funds on beach replenishment. To the tune of  $7.6M with matching funds from the state. The money for beaches will have to come from other priorities in the County and municipal budgets. Like infrastructure for example.

So the coastal municipalities facing budgetary constraints will have to contribute more funding to restore the beaches of some very wealthy towns along the coastline as well. The state is already limiting public access to beaches in South Florida and the public, according to the editor(s) at the Post, need to support more beach replenishment too. Mind-numbing.

For example, the Lake Worth Beach is a public beach. It is a regional beach in Central Palm Beach County. On top of all the issues and problems at the Lake Worth Beach how much will the City of Lake Worth have to pony up to help restore the beaches in South Palm Beach? Maybe one of the business reporters at the Post will come up with some rough numbers to inform the public.

Of course, this all delves into the ¢1 sales tax increase, the referendum that passed in November 2016.

Reporter Wayne Washington at The Palm Beach Post had this eye-opening news last year about the sales tax increase and what the County plans to do with their share of the pie, ≈30% of the total, about $810M:

     Those projects won’t reshape the county into a new age place of raised highways and buildings less vulnerable to the more potent storms and catastrophic flooding scientists are warning will come with climate change.
     Most of the projects are traditional, according to a report compiled by the county’s Office of Inspector General, which will assist with oversight.
     Building replacement and renovation will account for $335 million of the $709 million allocated. Roadway repairs — restriping, resurfacing, bridge repair and replacement and street lighting — will take up another $157 million.

This puts Palm Beach County’s Climate Change and Sustainability Dept. in a pretty tough spot. If they can’t convince the County Commission about the vulnerability to climate change and global warming then they’re not in the position to be giving any direction to the cities either. And what of the continuing series, “The Invading Sea: Can South Florida Be Saved?

What real impact are the editors at the Post, Miami Herald, Sun Sentinel and WLRN (public radio) having on the public? Apparently not much.

Is the public even listening, reading or heeding this “[E]ditorial collaboration to urge action on sea-level rise”? And beach replenishment is one of the key elements in the big plan going forward. Once again. Mind-numbing.

“The Invading Sea” series began in June. But the editor(s) at the Post are now encouraging more beach renourishment. No better plan for the future? The only plan is that municipalities like the City of Lake Worth have to pay more? Here is an excerpt from that recent editorial in the Post:

[T]he beach is essential not only to Palm Beach County’s economy — think tourists, fishing, luxury residences [emphasis added] — but also to our region’s very identity. Not for nothing does “beach” appear in our county’s name, and in the names of 12 of the county’s municipalities.

Last week we learned that the county has asked the state for about $7.6 million to pay for restoration projects at what have been labeled critically eroded beaches – dwindled sections of shoreline located northward of Juno Inlet and as far south as Ocean Ridge. If the state approves the money, the county would match it with about $5.2 million and roughly $2.4 million more provided by affected coastal cities.

Now to what scientist John Englander wrote on September 11th, two days after the editorial in the Post:

The worsening beach erosion is often blamed on rising sea level with some truth, but that hides the underlying problem. Beach erosion would be happening even without rising sea level — though rising sea level will surely make the problem worse.

What’s the problem?

Beaches have always moved, or migrated. Coastal geologists have can track historical beach and shoreline movements, even before human impact. Over a few centuries, shorelines can move greatly, hundreds of feet in either direction. Barrier islands can be created as well as disappear. Let’s look at a few very simple forms of beach erosion.

  • Strong coastal storms, like hurricanes, can do major re-sculpting of a beach in hours.
  • At the other extreme, along most beaches, there is a slow, inexorable movement of sand along the shore, moving sand down the beach. You can usually observe this, just by looking carefully where the ocean meets the beach, even with the smallest waves. This natural process takes sand from one area, depositing it elsewhere — depletion and accretion.
  • Humans introduce a major new effect, wherever we interrupt that natural movement of sand along the shore. Any rock jetty, such as at a marina entrance, stops the longshore movement of sand. Sand piles up widening the beach on one side, and on the other, the beach erodes dramatically.

It is only in recent times that we have built closer and closer to the sea, assuming that “insurance would cover our assets.” In olden times it was understood to be risky and dangerous so no one built that close to the sea. To add to the problem, in the last half-century, our structures became larger, more permanent, and expensive. Think of all the expensive condominiums that seem to have sprung up like sea oats, along gorgeous beaches all over the world.

[To learn more about John Englander, “[A]n oceanographer, consultant and leading expert on sea level rise” click on this link.]

But keep in mind, the editor(s) at the Post think that beach renourishment is still the best and brightest idea for coastal Palm Beach County. And municipalities like the City of Lake Worth need to do more. Mind-numbing.

Along with the ¢1 sales tax increase — the County referendum that passed in November 2016 — the Neighborhood Road Bond referendum in the City of Lake Worth also passed by a “whopping 69%”. The public focus was and remains about fixing our infrastructure much of which fell into disrepair during the Great Recession. But things are turning around.

So maybe in a future editorial in the Post they can explain to Lake Worth Mayor Pam Triolo and the City Commission and to City Manager Michael Bornstein and City staff what part of the City budget can be cut to make certain there is more funding for beach renourishment in South Palm Beach.

However. . .

On November 8th, 2016, the public in the City of Lake Worth was asked to approve a referendum:

The editor of the editorial board at the Post wrote shortly thereafter the referendum passage, “Lake Worth is poised for some major upgrades following residents’ approval — by a whopping 69 percent. . .”