Meredith Tschappat of College Park, Ga., at an eroded Jensen Sea Turtle Beach on Thursday. Photo courtesy: Matt Prichard, tcpalm.com.
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MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. - This week’s gusty winds and especially high tides took some bites out of Treasure Coast beaches but the most significant damage was at Stuart’s nationally noted Bathtub Beach.
On Thursday, a contractor’s trucks were diverted from a major road construction project in Vero Beach to rush replacement sand to the low-lying Stuart beach.
Otherwise erosion was mainly seen in waves cutting into beaches, creating cliffs, some up to 5 feet tall below the dunes, according to county officials and the National Weather Service, Melbourne.
A number of late season beach turtle nests were washed out.
The erosion is blamed on 25 to 30 mph off-shore winds on Wednesday and Thursday and the moon’s gravity pulling the tides higher than normal.
Waves topped out at five feet, according to the National Weather Service.
Winds slackened Friday and are to stay down through the weekend to 5 to 10 mph.
South of the Fort Pierce inlet the waves created a 3- to 5-foot-tall ledge in the beaches, St. Lucie County spokesman Eric Gill said Friday. But no bathing beaches are closed in the affected area that extends from the inlet to the Ocean Village condominiums.
“Unfortunately that is what nature does,” periodically takes away sand, Gill said. “Hopefully it will come back in the coming months.”
That area, said Gill, is the county most erosion prone because it is immediately south of the Fort Pierce inlet jetties that block replacement sand from naturally moving southward.
Much farther south the waves did wash away a good chunk of Jensen Sea Turtle Beach, a popular beach on Hutchinson Island.
Bathtub Beach was closed to the public since Wednesday as high tides and waves caused a breach in the dune system.
The county estimates that between 80 to 100 feet of the northern section of the dune was lost.
The county has been replacing about 2,000 cubic yards of sand to keep the surf from running onto the parking lot and nearby MacArthur Boulevard.
Officials said this week they expect to reopen the beach on Saturday.
Along the Treasure Coast, “We’ve seen a lot of (sea turtle) nests either eroded away or inundated with water,” said Erik Martin, scientific director at of Jensen Beach-based Ecological Associates, which monitors beaches in most of Martin County, southern St. Lucie County and northern Indian River County.
Robert Ernst, president of Ecological Associates, said, “People have been asking what they should do when they find the eggs, and we have to tell them that once the eggs are out of the nest, the vibrations of rolling around and the exposure to the elements kills the embryos.”
Martin estimates that the loss of sea turtles eggs will be 10 to 15 percent, a little above average. “I don’t think what’s happening now is going to be overly harmful to the season overall,” Martin said. This is the end of a turtle nesting season, during which nest counts for loggerheads, leatherbacks and green turtles — the three sea turtle species that typically lay eggs on the Treasure Coast — have been up.
Copyright (c) 2010 The E. W. Scripps Company