Sandy wiped out a lot of beach and Governor Chris Christie is determined to rebuild all of his Jersey Shore, even if it is bad for the environment. "I don't believe in a state like ours, where the Jersey Shore is such a part of life, that you just pick up and walk away," he said in a briefing last night. While we understand this deep appreciation for the beach, the environmentalists make a good point: Remaking the beaches is bad for the planet. And do we really want to do that since maybe doing things that are bad for Earth is what got us into this? Also, with climate change a comin' (already here?), we can expect more storms like this, say a lot of people, so perhaps making a replica of life pre-Sandy isn't the best tactic.
Sandy washed away a good chunk of beaches all along the coast, but Jersey was hit exceptionally hard, as this before and after photo below, from the Associated Press, shows. To get the coastline looking as delightfully sandy as it looked before Sandy, the beach will undergo a replenishment process called "dredging," which involves using a pipe to siphon sand and put it on the shore.
When done right, this process can prevent erosion and it's like Sandy never happened. (It doesn't always go down perfectly, a concern of Rockaway beach goers this summer. "If this beach was constructed by an inexperienced contractor and sand was not placed at correct angles and slopes, beach erosion could increase dramatically, and rip tides may worsen at this location, putting the lives of swimmers at high risk," Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder said last week, before Sandy hit.)
However, as you can imagine, removing sand from a place forever has consequences both for its original location and for its new habitat. "It's like a bad drug habit," Chad Nelsen, the environmental director of the Surfrider Foundation, a national organization dedicated to preserving beaches and oceans told the Associated Press's Geoff Mulvihill and Maryclaire Dale. It's not really a long term plan. Singer Island in Florida, for example, lost "pretty much all" of the sand that was pumped in a year and half ago, said Daniel Bates, a deputy director at the Palm Beach County Department of Environmental Resources Management. And, everytime it has to happen, there are consequences for the natural surrounding areas, such as:
- The actual process is dirty. "Beach replenishment and beach nourishment are euphemisms for what are really beach dredge and fill that turns the beach into an industrial site during construction," he told Patch's Adam Townsend.
- Sand removal destroys fish and nearby reef habitats, added Nelsen.
- Changing the look of the beach makes it less attractive to sea dwellers. "You often lose the qualities that make a beach attractive to sea turtles, not to mention the impacts to the invertebrates that live in the beach and are a requisite forage source for fish and birds," says fishing publication Fly & Light Tackle Angler's Terry Gibson.
All of this doesn't mean we should just leave the beaches alone. New York Governor Cuomo might disagree with Christie's approach. But he doesn't push for status quo either. "We’re not just going to just rebuild, we’re going to rebuild better than ever before, and we’re going to make a better Long Beach when it’s over," he said. What the plan for that is, however, he has not said.