Indian River County to focus on erosion 'hot spots'

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY, Fla. — Whoever the county hires to create a computer model of manmade structures that could slow beach erosion will be asked to focus on high-erosion "hot spots" rather than the county's entire coastline, county Coastal Engineer James Gray said Monday.

"We already have an idea of where the hot spots are," Gray said, pointing to Wabasso Beach Park, the area south of Treasure Shores Park and an area near Porpoise Pointe that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean.

Gray said he expects next month to issue a formal request for qualifications from engineering firms that could create computer models of how manmade structures, such as groins or breakwaters, could slow the erosion rate so the multimillion-dollar sand projects will last longer before they have to be repeated.

Members of the county Beach and Shore Preservation Advisory Committee didn't vote on Gray's plan to focus on hot spots, but a few nodded in assent.

Michael Jenkins, the coastal engineering team leader with Applied Technology & Management of West Palm Beach, last week advised Gray to use existing county data to determine the worst erosion areas, and then base models on them, rather than find the worst areas through the models.

However, it's not just a matter of looking at high-erosion spots, committee Chairman David Barney said. The eligible sites must be near areas of stable sand and be cheaper to remedy with manmade structures than with just sand.

Committee members Robert Lindsey and Cheryl Gerstner pressed Gray on whether any other communities found manmade structures could help sand-replacement projects last 20 years, for instance, rather than five years.

"Yes, where the coastlines permit structures, the structures do work," Gray said.

The county has had one structure, the $2 million Prefabricated Erosion Prevention Reef, off Sexton Plaza since 1996. Supporters say it has had some success.

Barney said the county doesn't have much more hard data on which communities found anti-erosion structures worked cost-effectively because, for years, the state Department of Environmental Protection was against such structures.

Even now, he said, the DEP wants a community to show a sand-only solution won't work as well as a structure before the state will permit a structure.

"That's a permit issue, not a technical issue," said Steve Boehning, a local private-sector coastal engineer.

With enough sand, he said, a sand-only approach might work. However, the state should compare the costs of the sand against the costs of a structure, he said.

"When you compare the (sand) money to a structure, now you have something you can study," he said.

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