Beach renourishment rankles Tybee hotelier – Savannahnow.com

“Over the past decade, a series of huge sand mounds has formed along a 900-foot stretch of Tybee Island’s oceanfront between Fourteenth Street and the Tybee Pier,” wrote Spirides’ attorney, R. Todd Silliman, of McKenna Long & Aldridge in Atlanta. These …

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Beach renourishment rankles Tybee hotelier – Savannah Morning News

In addition, the following press release contains information concerning recommendations from experts on suggested improvements for Tybee’s proposed beach renourishment plans for 2015:

Tybee Island, Ga. – On December 19, 2013, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District, officially opened the public comment period for the Draft Environmental Assessment (EA) and Draft Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the proposed 2015 Tybee Island Beach Renourishment Project.

The Corps’ proposed beach renourishment plan includes a process that involves using an ocean-based cutterhead dredge to move about 1.7 million cubic yards of sand from an area located 1.5 miles from the southern tip of Tybee Island to Tybee Island’s beaches.  The proposed project would be cost shared among local, state, and federal taxpayers.

 In response to the findings published in the EA and FONSI reports, a letter was submitted during the public comment period to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from Environmental Attorney Todd Silliman of McKenna Long & Aldridge on behalf of Ocean Plaza Beach Resort on Tybee Island, Ga.

The letter explains that the EA and FONSI completely ignore the adverse effects of beach renourishment when not accompanied by an effective dune management program. The letter cites a recent study of the condition of sand dunes and beaches on Tybee Island conducted by Dr. George Oertel, a coastal marine geologist who specializes in hydrodynamic and morphodynamic investigations of barrier islands.

Dr. George Oertel’s report entitled Conceptual Plan for Correcting and Managing Dune Instability Along Commercial Beaches (January 2014), states that adding sand to Tybee Island beaches, when not accompanied by an active and ongoing dune management program, will continue to produce a myriad of negative consequences on Tybee Island including poorly formed and dissected primary dune field and formation of massive pyramid-shaped sand mounds on Tybee’s beach, the Back River and property owners’ back yards, that, unlike natural dune ridges, degrade aesthetics, inhibit recreation, negatively affect tourism, threaten crucial sea turtle nesting habitat, obstruct the natural viewshed and do not provide effective storm protection.

Oertel’s report also examines problems created by past beach renourishment projects on Tybee Island and outlines a more fiscally and environmentally responsible approach to future beach renourishment plans that benefits both the city and its inhabitants and visitors including:

  • Removal of harmful pyramid-shaped sand mounds and redistribution of that sand to eroded beach areas, construction and maintenance of a new continuous primary dune ridge and back-dune recreational swale system, and installation of structures to protect the new dune system;
  • Include as part of any renourishment activity an active and ongoing dune management program that remedies the detrimental long-term effects of the constant movement of millions of cubic yards of windblown sand deposited on Tybee Island by beach renourishment projects.

In addition, the EA recognizes that past beach renourishment projects have caused the formation of a large sand bar in the Tybee Inlet at the south end of Tybee Island, but it does not address the well-documented public safety hazard and impediment to navigation created by the sand bar. The sand bar has caused several deaths and continues to force numerous emergency rescues each year. The Corps proposed dredging and beach renourishment activities would in fact maintain and expand the hazardous sand bar.

Dredging of the sand bar in the Tybee Inlet and applying that sand to Tybee beaches, will help eliminate hazardous conditions for public safety, improve navigation for boating, is more cost effective than an ocean dredge based beach renourishment, and have less impact on right whales, which are present in the area during the time the Corps currently proposes to perform dredging for renourishment.

Ocean Plaza Beach Resort did not submit the comments to refute the need for beach renourishment on Tybee Island. All stakeholders including Ocean Plaza Beach Resort are in agreement that this is a necessary project. Instead, due to the above-described deficiencies in the Corps’ EA and FONSI reports, both documents should be withdrawn and new studies developed to re-examine the cumulative negative effects of beach renourishment addressed in Attorney Silliman’s letter and in Dr. Oertel’s report, and expand on new alternatives that would not only ensure the future public safety, economic vitality, and natural habitat of Tybee Island’s beautiful beaches, but would also provide cost effective alternative beach renourishment solutions for taxpayers. 

MEDIA CONTACT INFORMATION:

Mr. Todd Silliman

McKenna Long & Aldridge

(404) 527-4914

tsilliman@mckennalong.com

 

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