Fla: Cruisers Should Help Fund Erosion Projects



GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Among Florida's 43 million visitors, many are drawn to the beaches along the state's almost 800 miles of shoreline.

Many of those beaches, however, are eroding each year, so the question arises of how to pay for replenishing the sand.

In an unusual proposal before the state Legislature, cruise passengers are being asked to pay the tab. Under the proposal, each of the 2 million passengers who visit the state would pay a tax of $2 for a day trip and $10 for an overnight sailing.

The proponents of the legislation have found a "nexus" between beach erosion and the cruise industry in the research of Robert G. Dean, chairman of the Coastal and Oceanographic Engineering Department of the University of Florida.

According to Dean, 80% to 85% of erosion on the east coast of Florida is due to jetties and dredging required to make inlets and channels navigable.

However, even proponents of the legislation agree that since there are 16 such channels on the east coast and only four are used by cruise ships, the cruise industry cannot be responsible for the entire problem.

Moreover, the only ports used on Florida's west coast are in the Tampa Bay area, where the problem of beach erosion does not arise.

Nevertheless, proponents of the legislation say the cruise industry should shoulder the burden since it shares in the problem.

That argument is vehemently rejected by the Florida Carib-bean Cruise Association, whose 11 member cruise lines sail from the state.

Dean said between $30 million and $35 million was needed each year to fund the state's contribution to sand replenishment, whose cost also is borne by local governments and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

He said that the average of $8 million to $9 million annually budgeted by the legislature for beach replenishment was inadequate to meet the need.

As an indication that man-made rather than natural factors cause the erosion of beaches, Dean pointed to Palm Beach.

There, he said, some beaches have narrowed over the past 50 years from almost 150 feet to a ribbon of sand. The culprit, he said, was the deepening of the channel at the port.

Another heavy stretch of beach erosion is at John Lloyd State Park, just south of Port Everglades, he said. And because of beach erosion south of Port Canaveral, about 200 property owners have filed a suit against the operators of the port.

Dean said beach erosion occurs on the east coast because the flow of sand sediments there is from north to south.

Before inlets were deepened or partially blocked by jetties, he said, "the sand would work itself around the natural inlets because the channels were not very deep."

But jetties were built on the north side of channels to block the sand, he said, and the natural channels, which averaged around five to seven feet, were deepened to 30 feet to 40 feet.

Dean attributed the remaining erosion to storms and construction on the shoreline.

Under natural conditions over time, he added, the erosion due to storms tends to be compensated by sand replenishment from other storms.

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