The Battle of Upham Beach, part 2: The great sand debate

-A 40 foot hole in the jetty was closed. (County records)


-Rocks were removed from in front/side of the sea wall. (County records)


-85,000 cubic yards of sand was placed drowndrift to mitigate any potential negative affects. (DEP records)


-During the nourishments of the past 5 years, Upham received 100,000 more cubic yards of sand at each interval than


compared to any prior nourishment from 1975 – 2000. (Evaluation of DEP/County records)


-Dredging of Blind Pass occurs every 10 years, as opposed 2-3 years prior to experimentation. (USACE records)


-Shoal build up, aiding wave protection – thus mitigating erosion impact. (Scientific projection)


-Historical weather patterns differ. (NOAA records)


In high school and collegiate science experiments, proving the hypothesis means all environmental controls are maintained and are given adequate consideration if altered. No reference in the USF monitoring reports (which Pinellas County hired experiment evaluators for) mentions any of the above elements' effect on how each could have helped or deterred inherent outcomes. Could the jetty enclosure and rock removal from the seawall have helped to stop the erosion process? Could the extra sand placement have aided the scientific findings to prove that spending the $17.5 million for implementation as a justified decision? The dredging, shoal, and weather patterns completely affect the experimental outcome when they were not even taken into consideration. But maybe the contract stipulations were to only report the data and not the big picture?


Addressing the 38% sand savings, consider the T1 instillation as less than perfect, as the area achieved a greater sand loss percentage. However, because of the "damage" (mentioned in the prior article), the negative implication was thrown out of the totals. The other element to consider: the profile lines -- where USF scientists  measure sand retention -- were shortened and measurements covered as cross sections of the T-groins as savings in the calculations (meaning the sand in the bags are a part of the totals).


Additionally, a common shoreline scientific fact: sea walls exacerbate erosion. Hmm, where lays the crucial point in calculations and touting the 100 foot beach line? Oh yeah, the same place the unpublished sand transport occurred in May 2008 for dumping of sand to "fix" T1. To date, no county official has answered the question about how much sand was moved and no USF monitoring report alludes to the experiment's alteration.


Adverse sand down drift affecting beaches is common shoreline scientific and engineering knowledge. If the groins are not affecting the sand down drift at Upham, does that imply the structures are not holding the sand as they were designed to do?

This ensuing article is the second piece of the Upham Beach series, the first being: "The Battle of Upham Beach: Groins - not just a pain in the pass".

In understanding the irony of the situation: Upham is a feeder beach, meaning sand transports from Upham’s land mass southerly from Sunset Beach, according to the beach biodiversity, and Sunset gets its sand from Sunshine Beach.

The solution the county implemented to keep Upham Beach from eroding involved trapping sand on the beach – but not all of it. Logic dictates more sand will be needed for the southern beaches since the feeding will now be slowed. The original problem lies in Upham not receiving the north-south flow of sand, due to the Blind Pass involvement. Additionally, the experiment does not address the main issue: sand transportation. Taxpayers will spend (and have already spent) millions of dollars on a rock structure (the T-groins). Most importantly, the structure will still require sand placement in order for the beach to function appropriately to Mother Nature’s standards. In analyzing the experiment, every rock, stone, and marble was virtually unturned. However, Pinellas County staffers continuously claim the 5 T-Groin structures save 38% more sand than without the use of them.

During the process of the implementation of the temporary structures at Upham Beach, the following occurred:

Scroll to read more News Feature articles
Join the Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state.
Help us keep this coverage going with a one-time donation or an ongoing membership pledge.

Newsletters

Join Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Creative Loafing Tampa Bay. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at [email protected]