County leaders haven't given up on solutions for beach erosion

Palm Beach County leaders have renewed efforts to find a permanent way to keep sand on the area's fastest-eroding beaches.

Two months after county commissioners said they would stop looking for a long-term fix to erosion, local leaders have teamed up with state environmental regulators to revive the plan.

The group will focus on finding a solution for wide stretches of the coastline, not just individual beaches, county managers said.

Dan Bates, deputy director of the county's environmental resources management department, said the push gives beach-goers and those living along the coast "renewed hope."

In February, commissioners voted against a jetty proposal to protect Singer Island, prompting county administrators to halt plans to build jetties and other sand-trapping structures up and down the coast.

A majority of commissioners said they were concerned that the proposed Signer Island jetties, known as groins, were too costly and would not do enough to keep sand from washing way along a one-mile stretch of beach.

The February decision also marked the end for two other projects intended to shore up beaches on the county's south-central coast and south of the Jupiter Inlet. Those projects were expected to face similar criticisms and administrators said it would be impossible to continue working on them if the Singer Island project didn't win commission support.

Critics of the Singer Island jetties had argued the rock structures would disrupt sea turtle nesting and interfere with the natural flow of sand along the coast.

Under the revived push, officials will first try to find a solution to the erosion problem between the Lake Worth and South Lake Worth inlets. The stretch of coast includes a one-mile section of shore near South Palm Beach, where the erosion has become so bad that county officials have stopped trucking sand onto the shore because it washes away too quickly.

If the plan works, state and local officials will expand the project to include the county's northern and southern beach, Bates said.

Commissioners are expected to discuss the new push at a meeting next month .

The state's Department of Environmental Protection has traditionally evaluated projects on a case-by-case basis, but recently told county officials it would assess larger stretches of coastline.

"They are looking at it globally," Commissioner Karen Marcus said. "How do you make the whole system work?"

The county was in the middle of a $460,000 environmental study to evaluate permanent erosion control structures near South Palm Beach where the problem is severe, but the plan was shelved after the commission's February decision. The cost of the study was split between the county, Palm Beach and South Palm Beach.

Commissioner Steven Abrams said that he hoped the county would be able to salvage the work that has already been done on the study and apply it to the new regional plan. "It represents work that has been done and progress that has been made," Abrams said.

Meanwhile, the county is expected to begin replenishing sand along Singer Island in November. Near the Jupiter Inlet and in other critically eroded areas, sand will be dumped on the beaches periodically, officials have said.