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Date of Issue: December 10, 2008

SAM explores beach issues

Save Anna Maria members explored with a coastal engineer one of the most significant problems for life on a barrier island — beach erosion.

The consensus among the small group was that erosion is natural process that can have severe financial and emotional consequences for people.

About 10 people attended the general meeting of SAM Dec. 6 at the Island Branch Library in Holmes Beach.

 SAM president Billie Martini said she had expected several elected officials to attend, but they did not appear.

“I’m very disappointed,” said Martini in reference to the turnout. “But as long as the press is here, and the guest speakers are here, we’ll get started.”

SAM’s first order of business was a presentation from photographer Jack Elka and Cliff Truitt who has worked on beach renourishment projects in the state, including on Longboat Key.

Truitt is with Coastal Technologies Corporation and a former senior scientist with Mote Marine Laboratory. Elka is widely known on Anna Maria Island for his aerial photography, which was used during the SAM meeting to illustrate coastal changes over the years.

“Something is happening out there,” Martini said, referring to this year’s significant shoreline damage in Anna Maria from relatively distant storms.

She then opened the floor to Truitt, who used a slideshow to illustrate his talk about “waves we like,” “waves we don’t like,” coastal control lines, natural dunes, beach erosion and renourishment to protect people’s interest on the coast.

Erosion, Truitt said, is a very natural process.

“When we introduce homes into the situation, we introduce a man-made component. Erosion, now it’s a problem when before it wasn’t,” he said.

What are the responses to erosion? Truitt asked.

One option is a public-sponsored or private-sponsored retreat, with setting back a property, relocating a property or abandoning a property.

“It’s extremely expensive,” Truitt said of the option. “When you retreat from this type of property you are retreating from your tax base.”

Another option is coastal armoring — “anything you put between you and the waves he said, showing a slide of a steel wall around a home and then a concrete wall on the shore.

“When waves hit armoring structures … you get a sense of the power of waves, how far that energy is kicked  up in the air,” Truitt said, displaying a photograph of waves washing over a wall.

Truitt also discussed using groins for erosion control,  breakwaters, sand renourishment and creatively-designed sandbars.

Elka, who has been flying for about 30 years to take photos, said, “Beach erosion is a man-made problem.… We built too close to the water.… No matter what we try to do, we’re never going to be able to control movement of sand, movement of water.… People want to build their house where they can go out the back yard into the water.”

Elka added, “The only solution is beach restoration.”

In other business, SAM announced it will donate a bench to the Anna Maria Island Butterfly Park Dec. 17.

The ceremony will take place at about 3:30 p.m. in the garden south of Holmes Beach City Hall, 5801 Marina Drive.