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Posted 9/6/2013

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By Amanda Ellison

Florida’s coastline is one of the largest in the nation, and its beaches are plentiful. The average person would think that sand is an endless resource and would never run out. However, for Miami-Dade County, sand that is dependable, economical and environmentally practicable is nearly depleted.

In August, Jacksonville District held a series of five public scoping meetings across the southeast Florida region to talk with the public about potential borrow sources for sand for Miami.

The southeast Florida region encompasses five counties (St. Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade) and approximately 200 miles of Florida shoreline.

Throughout the region, 24 federal and non-federal beach nourishment projects provide storm damage reduction to infrastructure as well as incidental recreational opportunities for local, national and international visitors.
Studies have been under way to identify alternative sand sources. In addition to non-domestic, the studies included domestic sources such as upland sources, sources in deeper offshore waters, sources offshore of other counties in southeast Florida in federal and state waters and even domestic sources from as far away as the Apalachicola River. 

In 2007, the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works directed that all remaining sand offshore of Miami-Dade County be used for beach renourishment in the county, to investigate the viability of non-domestic sand sources and to investigate a regional management plan for use of domestic sources.

Subsequently, in 2009, a Regional Sediment Management (RSM) Plan for southeast Florida indicated there was just enough domestic offshore sand in the region to support federal and non-federal projects for 50 years. Further economic analysis and discussion with the dredging industry indicated that domestic sources were more dependable and economically viable than non-domestic sources.

In 2012, a collaborative effort between the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), the five southeast Florida counties and the Corps sought to update the 2009 RSM Plan with improved data. 

The FDEP led the study effort with technical input from the Corps and data provided by southeast Florida counties. Each county determined its sand need for federal and non-federal nourishment projects for the next 50 years.  

With a 55 percent contingency added to these needs, it was found that more than 1.7 million cubic yards of sediment are needed to support placement of planned, full-sized beach nourishment projects through 2062.

The FDEP and the Corps conducted geotechnical investigations to locate additional beach quality sand sources. With contingencies applied, it was found that more than 2.8 million cubic yards of sand that meet the criteria for this study exist offshore of southeast Florida. Therefore, currently known sediment resources in St. Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach, Broward and Dade Counties exceed 50-year sediment needs by one million cubic yards.

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires that all projects that are federally funded, federally authorized or federally permitted be analyzed to determine the effects on the human environment. The NEPA process begins with scoping, an effort to work with the public to identify specific resources that may or may not be impacted by the proposed project.

The Corps must now complete a Limited Re-evaluation Report and subsequent NEPA documentation to evaluate alternative sand sources. It’s anticipated that the report will be approved October 2014. From that point, subject to appropriations, the Corps will begin permit application and detailed design processes, with construction contracts expected to be awarded in 2015.

alternative sand sources beach renourishment beaches Jacksonville District Miami-Dade National Environmental Policy Act NEPA Regional Sediment Management Plan sand study scoping meetings storm damage reduction U.S. Army Corps of Engineers USACE