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Beach Replenishment Exposed

Letters to the Editor 2019

By Ross Kushner, Sea Bright

To the Editor: 
At the New Jersey Coastal Alliance, we work to see the truth about beach replenishment exposed. We object to the perpetuation of bunk as recently expressed in the Herald. Let’s examine some of these “facts.”
1. Beach replenishment protects the New Jersey coast from storm damage.
As we learned from Superstorm Sandy, most of our storm damage has nothing to do with ocean beaches or ocean waves. Flooding and tidal surges in rivers, bays, and estuaries, or things like wind damage, often miles inland, cannot be reduced by pumped sand on an ocean beach.
2. Beach replenishment is saving our multibillion-dollar shore tourism economy. It is very cost-effective.
So-called “tourism” dollars include gas for power boats, people dining at near-coast restaurants, and a thousand other things that have no relationship to pumped sand. If the dollars beach sand produced actually covered the cost, then why don’t local communities pay the full price without handouts from distant taxpayers? When you look at the actual contribution of beachfront homes to our economy, versus the cost of protecting them, it makes no sense at all.
3. Without beach replenishment, we would have no beaches.
Then explain Island Beach State Park – almost 10 miles of perfect sandy beaches that have weathered every storm in fine shape with no added sand. Beaches, left to themselves, may relocate over time but they don’t disappear. The pumping of sand protects the line of mansions behind the beach, not the beach itself.
4. Beach replenishment improves recreation.
Study after study shows that pumped sand makes our beaches dangerous for anyone entering the water. A good reference is “The Impact of Sand Nourishment on Beach Safety” by Fletemeyer, Hearin, Haus, and Sullivan, published July 2018 in the Journal of Coastal Research.  Sand cliffs, shore-break waves, and sinkholes, caused by beach replenishment, continue to endanger beachgoers at many beaches in New Jersey. How exactly does that help tourism?
5. Beach replenishment lasts three to five years.
How long the new sand lasts varies widely, beach to beach. A replenished beach that lasts five years is rare. In a number of cases, much of the sand is gone in five to 10 weeks.
6. Beach replenishment is environmentally benign, and its few negative impacts on wildlife are short-lived.
Anyone familiar with our beaches knows this is untrue. As one example, not long ago, a beach stroller would find thousands upon thousands of seashells on any of our beaches. Now, they are lucky to see a handful of shells over hundreds of yards of shoreline. All that life has been annihilated, buried under acres of pumped sand. The biological assessment conducted by the Army Corps to support these projects was seriously flawed and was the only such study conducted in our state. 
When the true benefits are weighed against the negative aspects, beach replenishment is shown to be little more than welfare for the ultra-rich, protecting their investments in beachfront real estate. And this situation will grow worse over time. Instead of kicking the can down the road, we need to tackle this with appropriate solutions. Change is needed.  
ED. NOTE: A local source indicates that the shells have disappeared due to overfishing and clamming, thus they’ve been eliminated.

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