Don't Dredge on Me
The Beachside Resident - May 2013
Dan Reiter Answers Letters on Guns, Gold, Gay Weddings, The Wavecaster Report, Ponce de León, and Other Such Nonsense...
Q: Why are they planning to dump more sand onto Cocoa Beach this November? The beach seems wide enough right now. We might have needed the sand back in 2005, after Frances and Jeanne. But now? The dunes are holding, the sandbar is still recovering, why ruin everything?
— Lisa, Merritt Island
DR: The beach renourishment is a source of metaphysical angst for both ends of the political spectrum. Ultra-liberal surfers and neo-conservative Tea Partiers each hate it for their own reasons. Surfers, because the breaks will be ruined by the formation of a near-shore trough, and Tea Partiers because the sight of the Great Lakes barges dredging $16 million worth of sand out of the Canaveral Shoals invokes an image of a city suckling on the teat of the Federal Government. Really, the whole problem comes down to semantics. Instead of labeling it “beach renourishment” — a term which has taken on a sour taste — or “pump and dump,” which again calls to mind breast-feeding, Cocoa Beach needs to adopt a more retro, 1960’s-style term for the dredge. Why not call it: “refilling the ashtray”?
Q: We have a saying in Orlando — “If the Wavecaster is calling it chest or less, you’re bound to get skunked.” Why does that guy overcall every swell?
— Phil, Orlando
DR: I’ll try to answer this one respectfully. The city of Orlando has an elevation of 82 feet, which is exactly 82 feet higher than Melbourne Beach. From that vantage, any reports about rising surf might tend to seem overinflated. Also, it’s hard to keep track of the shifting sandbars when it takes an hour to drive to the beach. Of course, there’s always the possibility you’re just a cynical kook.
Q: I read with interest your op-ed on Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. As a former attorney, I have to say (tongue-firmly-in-cheek) that your legal analysis is full of holes. Stand Your Ground is not, as you claim, a “wild-west-style edict” simply because two people shooting in each other’s direction on a public street can both claim immunity under the law. As a card-carrying member of the NRA, I find it unconscionable that you would blame special interests for drug or gang-related abuses of Stand Your Ground. It’s not our job to enforce the laws, only to draft them.
DR: I must admit this is a very persuasive argument. Maybe you could come visit my house and we can discuss this in further depth? Just come through the side gate and knock forcefully on the back door.
Q: I came to visit Florida last year and was surprised to find that you were trying to combat sea level rise by mounding sand up on the beach. My home city of Rotterdam lies six metres below sea level, and is completely protected by dikes. From an engineering perspective, the most effective way to buffer your island would clearly be to elevate highway A1A and fortify its eastern bank, thus converting the road into a sluice and wall system. For the sake of economics, you might compact all the building materials eastward of the roadway. Admittedly, the beach would be inaccessible for a number of years, but in time it would replenish itself as sand collected over top of the rubble. I know this will never happen — any society who doesn’t recognize the rights of same-sex couples to marry could never be forward-thinking enough to implement such a plan.
— Job, The Netherlands
DR: Wow, a lot going on in this one. If I understand it correctly, “Job” proposes we invoke eminent domain, demolish all the beachfront condos and use the rubble as rip-rap. A radical idea, the biggest challenge of which would be figuring out what kind of reparations the condo owners would receive. How about this: a permanent suite on a Carnival cruise liner, with headliner Neil Sedaka singing four nights a week?
No, of course we won’t demolish the condos. Floridians are too firm for that. We’ll wait fifty years or so and let the ocean to do it for us. Come back then, Job, and you can surf a point break over the condo ruins, a reef of great pink blocks cast into the sea. As for your lovely dikes, I can only congratulate Rotterdam and wish you a hearty “Veel succes!”
Q: Is it true that the river’s “flipped?” Have we killed it forever?
— Jen, Cocoa Beach
DR: Yesterday, after hearing a persistent thump against one of my dock pilings, I went outside and found, floating by the seawall, a pale, bloated manatee carcass. I poked it gently with a stick to confirm the beast’s predicament — it was very dead — and went inside to call the appropriate authorities. Within the hour, a young fellow with a goatee and a polo shirt arrived. He informed me the probable cause of death was starvation. “The seagrass is gone,” he explained. “It’s like a desert down there. So they’re gorging on this red algae. That fuzzy stuff at the bottom with all the barnacles. I don’t think it’s good for them.” Have the nitrogen levels reached a point of no return? I don’t know. Look at the manatee deaths, the decimated fish populations, the barren river bottom, the toxic algal blooms… it doesn’t inspire confidence. I wouldn’t go so far to say we’ve killed the river forever. Just for a long, long, long time.
Q: You clearly have no grasp on the economics of beachside renourishment. For every dollar we spend on sand, we earn $5.50 in tourist revenue. Next time, do some research before you go spouting off on something you know nothing about. FTFY.
— JM, Indialantic
DR: I’ve actually done some research on this, and have come up with a slight modification to those numbers. I was skeptical at first… how can you put an actual dollar figure on imported sand? But when I learned the estimation technique, it began to make sense. Apparently the Canaveral Shoals are brimming with Spanish treasure, and the dredging would result, on average, in the recovery of one gold doubloon per forty cubic yards of imported sand. Now I won’t debate the existence of this theoretical Spanish gold, or even that the dredging ships will unearth it, but I must point out that the value of gold has dropped 15% since the original figures were calculated, and so the county only stands to earn $4.68 for every dollar spent on beach re… that is, on “filling the ashtray.”
Q: What’s all this crap about Juan Ponce de León beheading and slaughtering pregnant native women? Why do people think it’s okay to rewrite history? Juan Ponce de León was a hero, and he should be recognized as such!
— M. Spinoza, Palm Bay
DR: Please allow me to recommend the gin martinis at The Mango Tree.
Q: Here’s a good one: If the Wavecaster calls it shoulder high, you’ll find it to be “waste” somewhere.
— Ted, Merritt Island
DR: I never would have thought surfers to be so disillusioned. In defense of the Wavecaster, if I were given the choice of only one surf report, it would be his… Not because he is more accurate than Magic Seaweed or Surfline, but because he has a soul. Anyway, “Merritt Island,” go cross a bridge.