Town of Palm Beach News

$17 Million Midtown Sand Nourishment Project Washed Away

There hasn’t been much of a beach in the Town of Palm Beach for Midtown beachgoers to visit in the past several weeks. Beach erosion was caused by rough conditions and crashing waves throughout the Midtown area, from The Breakers to south of Gulfstream Road. Gone is the wide sandy beach that residents became accustomed to, instead there is now a lot of rocks and escarpments.

Two years ago, The Town of Palm Beach planted 1 million cubic yards of sand as part of the $17 million Midtown nourishment project, but, as Coastal Coordinator Rob Weber stated, it did not last as long as everyone hoped it would.

Of course, seasonal conditions affect erosion processes, and usually the beaches get narrower and lower during winter, but Midtown beaches currently have much less sand than last year in the winter time, and it shows.

According to Weber, all this sand is not lost and will return to the beach during the next few months. Surveys done after hurricane Matthew indicated that there is a lot of offshore sand in the Midtown area, and it should return in the spring. However, it’s expected to wash up on beaches farther south, as sand moves north to south. Reaches 5 and 6 in the southern end of Palm Beach Island, which extend from Banyan Road to Sloan’s Curve, are sure to reap the benefits of this, as that’s where the sand from Midtown beaches usually ends up.

The erosion trend starts at The Breakers and Lauder family properties, and then goes on to affect erosion at Clarke Beach, Midtown Beach and farther south. As explained by Weber, the erosion caused at the wall south of The Breakers leaves it exposed, which in turn accelerates the currents throughout the area and, by that, the erosion process. When the next wall becomes exposed further south, it continues to add to the erosion trend and accelerate it even more. This trend continues south all the way down to Gulfstream Road.

The Gulfstream in particular has been known for being wide, but it’s thinning out due to the erosion trends that continue to the south.

It’s been more than a year since The Breakers and Lauders consultants started looking for a solution to stop or slow down the erosion near their properties. Despite having meetings with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in order to discuss how to modify coastal protection structures (groins and breakwaters), a plan has not yet been finalized and presented.

Back in November, The Breakers was supposed to hold a presentation of its plans to the Shore Protection Board, but it has been deferred, and, according to Town Manager Tom Bradford, it’s questionable whether the resort wants to present its project at all.

The Breakers does not need the approval of the town for the project, as Public Works Director Paul Brazil explained, but regulatory agencies would ask the town’s opinions and the town would be able to submit comments to any application.

Council President Michael Pucillo hopes The Breakers will proceed to find out what’s causing the erosion and fixing it, sooner rather than later. He also believes The Breakers should work with the town on this issue. Resort’s representatives are silent, and The Breakers don’t respond to comment requests.

$17 Million Midtown Sand Nourishment Project Washed Away

It’s not all bad news – despite the erosion problems in Midtown, it seems the beaches of the far north and south ends of the town are erosion-free.

Last year, Sand Transfer plant carried 146,000 cubic yards of sand into Palm Beach from across the inlet, and in 2015 island beaches got around 91,000 cubic yards of sand from it. This is a great result according to Coastal Coordinator Rob Weber, who said that is 55,000 cubic yards more than last year, which means the productivity of the plant has been greatly increased.

Also, the nourishment project for the Phipps Ocean Park/Reach 7 is going well, and the healthy beaches near Phipps are feeding beaches south of the Lake Worth Pier into Reach 8. This is not all that surprising, considering that last year the town placed 1 million cubic yards of sand between Palm Beach County’s Kreusler Park and Phipps.

Sand moves through this area, and there is a narrow, but stable beach, which, most importantly, has a dune behind it.

The problem is that this stops before the southernmost town limits, so that the last three condominiums do not have a dune. Weber explained that Hurricane Matthew affected the erosion process there, but considering the fact that there wasn’t even a beach there for a time, things are not as bad as they seem. Also, the sand from Phipps will continue to move south, which will benefit beaches in Reach 8.

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Jess specializes in local news coverage. She is a hands on reporter attending every event and meeting she can in the community.

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