Reef on the Ropes, but there is Still Hope for the World!

by Chip Curry

This is natural beach front that was purchased and preserved by the city and citizens of Satellite Beach, Florida. Can you take one look at this photo and realize that this is not a prime building location? Not everyone can. It needs to be protected from those who lick their chops when they see an “opportunity” for development and substantial profits. This place is safe for now. It is a good example of grassroots success.

There is a new threat . . . beach re-nourishment. Majority local opinion opposed a misguided plan to haul in “sand” (dirt) from other areas to build up the “sand starved” beach along this part of the coast. A few years ago, conservationists got the powers that be to stop a similar project. Those of us with deep concerns did not get our way this time. Unfortunately, re-nourishment proponents won the day and an active project is underway. This same technique ruined some of the sugar sand beaches in Sarasota on the Gulf Coast when contractors hauled in coarse fill, laden with sharp shells from the Mayaka River area. As storms came and went, the new coquina marl became thoroughly mixed with the good stuff for miles.

Protection of beach front property, the tourist draw and the integrity of Highway A-1-A, which are all threatened by the encroaching ocean are the main issues of the pro-project factions.  The anti-project faction wants to preserve the coquina stone and soft coral (worm rock) reef that is the home and nursery of hundreds of species of marine life, and especially the renowned gamefish that the area is famous for. Not only that, but there are endangered and protected species of animals and plants everywhere. The Gopher Tortoise is on the endangered species list, and depends on the seemingly out of place prickly pear cactus. Most people don’t feel too bad about beach rats or pygmy rattle snakes. There is an orchid that only grows here as well as a bunch of other stuff. Most of us want to keep it that way. Besides, beach re-nourishment never works. It is a $100 dollar fine to destroy a sea oat. It seems they should be racking up some serious fines with this project.

Here is eyewitness footage of the project taken by Pure Ocean TV. The work crews were not happy about being filmed. While this is disheartening, it does not mean the reef will die. We are hoping it will work out. Time will tell.  How can we be happy about their errant activity?

First and foremost, we take this setback in stride . . . sort of. The project had too much momentum, and I guess we took our stand too late in the process. We will make it our business to do better next time. We are still pounding our drums. We are on a mission, but a confrontational war with other factions is counterproductive to success. Sometimes, it is impossible to avoid, though.

Conservationists learned many lessons with our successful grassroots effort to outlaw destructive gill nets in Florida. We were not popular with commercial fishing interests, but we won popular support of the general public. In any public effort, voluntary cooperation is far superior to coercive strategies. We have found most people to be reasonable when they hear our side of the story. Most people know and want what is right.

Heartbreak! Discouraged commercial fishermen lose their fight against the Florida net ban.

I felt for traditional fishing families when we succeeded in banning gill nets, but the resource was too valuable to let them continue unimpeded. Commercial fishermen fought for all they were worth to preserve their way of making a living. Actually, commercial fishermen were not put completely out of business. They were forced to change their methods and work even harder. A few are still making a go of it with less competition and returning stocks. The out-of-state culprits are gone.

People around here will get involved to preserve the natural resources of Florida. Conservation starts in our own backyard. We recycle, garden organically, conserve water (collect and redistribute), landscape with native species and shun commercial fertilizer and lawn chemicals. Most people don’t know how disastrous it is to maintain all of this St. Augustine grass covering the state. Massive quantities of insecticides, herbicides and nutrients are poured into our porous aquifer system and the Indian River Lagoon daily. Sadly, this is only a fraction of the problem. We want to do more than point out problems. We have some good solutions and are open to more. It starts on the local and regional level.

The Town of Satellite Beach bought what was left of their natural beach front. It can’t be sold, now. It is an investment in the future. They expanded facilities at existing parks, but kept the rest for preservation. You see, interests outside of this region are not initiated or concerned with local issues, “What’s the big deal about sea oats and worm rock? We can make millions!”

There is a lot of talk about the principals that this nation was built on, lately.  Guys like Benjamin Franklin embraced the idea of the junta or, “local power group” in today’s lingo, to get things accomplished. That is how they established schools, fire departments, libraries, hospitals and such. It is good to see Satellite Beach come together as a junta to preserve what beach is left. Owners of the beach front property deserve compensation and they were paid market value. It has been a sacrifice of money by the locals instead of a grab for it. They have set a good example. It gives the community cohesion. It is an example of the wealthy and humble of means joining to give what they can and call it even.

See the light! Jobs? We put ourselves to work. Inspector approves of  LED bulbs at Lighting Sciences

This is Florida. People come here to live a dream. Accommodating visitors can bring in plenty of revenue. Small business is a big factor here, so are major corporations. There are many industries making all kinds of products . . . from art to surfboards to avionics and space technology. The restaurants are great, there’s plenty to do, and sometimes the waves are world class. The fishing and sailing always is.

Kyle Downey ducking under a world class lip caving hard on the reef before scorching up the inside wall!

Ocean front real estate is big, big business, but locals often have no say in a matter. In this case, many of our “opponents” are local. No matter where they came from originally, they have legal residence and property rights in Florida. Now there are mega investment groups (too big to fail) who own many of the projects. The heck with them, except that is where everyone’s “real estate option” in their retirement funds are locked up. Either way, you have to feel their concern and accommodate your fellow citizen.

Living the Florida high-rise beachfront dream without a care in the world.

What about people’s valuable beach front property? Don’t they have a right to do what they want? There is always a tension between rights and freedom. Many people have used freedom within the law to build their homes on the ever shifting edge of the ocean. They are demanding their right to preserve their property with the re-nourishment program. Hello?! The beach has been steadily receding since the  seventies. Now, they want to throw sand at it? Should tax payers foot the bill for something that benefits so few, especially for a destructive technique that always fails to solve the problem?

Here’s the rub. The ocean is taking away the property and nothing will effectively stop it. At the end of the story, the condos collapse into the drink, and the reef grows bigger than ever. Maybe we should consider some kind of relocation strategy for beachfront property owners. Maybe we just need to learn, “Do not build your house on sand.”

Aftermath of the Florida beachfront nightmare . . . Satellite Beach

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