It might make us feel better, but is scraping beaches an authentic answer? by Dave Rauschkolb of Rosemary Beach & Bud and Alley's I have lived in Florida for 33 years and on County Road 30A for 20 of those years. I have spent all but one storm here and have a clear understanding of the power of these storms. I spent Hurricanes Dennis and Ivan at Seaside at the Holl building. Because the winds were minimal, I was able to see the power of the wind and water and the speed with which our recent beach erosion occurred first hand. Approximately 35 feet of sand was ?placed for protection? or scraped onto the existing cliffs after Ivan and other smaller storms. The scraping made the dunes look better and it made everyone feel more secure to shore up (pun intended) the dunes. People felt that new dune line would defend and protect us from the ravages of the sea. Sea oats were planted and everyone breathed a sigh of relief. At 9 a.m. on the day Dennis approached, I was watching perfect eight to 12 foot waves breaking out in the Gulf. The wind was out of the northeast and the tide was still low enough so the waves were coming up to the edge of the 35 feet of sand referenced above. That morning, high tide hit around noon, which was also near the time the seas would be peaking. By 10:30 a.m., about three feet of that protective sand cliff was gone. All the beach walkovers, however, were still intact. The next 55 minutes forever changed my opinion about the protective measures of beach scraping. By 11:05 a.m., 35 min- utes later, all the sand ? all 32 feet of bulldozer placed sand ? was gone. All of it. Gone. In 35 minutes. Twenty minutes later, all the walkovers were gone. The water then began pounding the natural, hard packed, scrub covered dune wall. It took about three hours to take 15 feet before the tide dropped. By 3:30 p.m., the water level had dropped and left thick blankets of foam on everything. I saw that no amount of sand dumped on or scraped up to the cliffs will have any affect on protecting anything. It will just be another expensive effort to make everyone feel better for the time being. And scraping seems to be lowering the level of the beach. Seems kind of counterintuitive doesn?t it? Any amount of money building bulkheads or sea walls will have the same effect. The only thing that could stop that power is a concrete wall from Panama City to Pensacola, and we all know that won?t happen. Last year I bought a house on Dog Island east of Apalachicola. While shopping, I saw three or four homes on pilings out in the Gulf and a few damaged ones (from Ivan) hanging off the dunes. I considered buying two homes. One was on the Gulf and priced $450,000 but it needed some serious work. The other house was in perfect shape and priced $699,000. Both had about 20 feet of dune but would have to be moved back, an additional $60,000 investment. There were other houses out in the Gulf. One was suspended high above the water on pilings about 30 feet out onto the water with its wires and water pipes dangling down to the water. About a month ago, I returned to Dog Island to check on my house. The homes that had been out in the gulf were gone. Not a trace. The fixer upper 20 feet behind the dune line that I had considered buying was also gone. The other house I had considered had crumbled down the dune onto the beach with only the steps left. This same scenario was repeated all down the beach except for the homes that had been moved back. The house I bought sits on a 40 foot hill, 100 feet behind the dune line, but I am certain in 30 or so years my house will have to be moved back away from the water. I also saw two homes that had been protected by a 125 foot bulkhead/seawall. The tattered and breached bulkhead was still out there poking out of the sand. All 20 or so feet of the sand that had been between the bulkhead and the houses had washed out the sides and through holes in the wall. One of the homes was left tilting off the dune and the other houses pilings were exposed. An open, full septic tank was lying on its side. Beachfront homeowners are struggling with an emotional and financial tragedy. Commissioners and citizens are frantically searching for answers and fixes to this on going problem. Brown sand is causing a firestorm of controversy. Everyone wants our beautiful white beaches and dunes back. The plain truth is that we have to begin to accept our cliffs. The white sand always comes back covering the beach and vegetation grows on the cliffs. Go to any state park where no restoration has been done. It is still beautiful. Different, but beautiful nonetheless. Beachfront homeowners should seriously consider moving their homes back. I can?t imagine any commission not relaxing front setback lines to allow this. Moving homes back its the most accepted practice on Dog Island. The cost might not be too different from building elaborately expensive bulkheads and dumping ton after ton of sand behind them. Moving their home is not practical for everyone but still a possible solution for many. A word about walkovers: There should be one county approved design for all public and private beach walkovers. They should be built so most of the walkover is at least 15 feet above the beach. Pilings should go much deeper in the sand so the water just washes under the pilings. They should have a break away stair so only the stair would need to be replaced and picked up after the storm. WaterColor has a retractable metal stair that they take in if a storm hits. Expensive but effective. Nothing will stop this natural process of erosion except perhaps dredging sand onto the beaches as they did in Panama City. Dredging also has negative environmental factors and the sand color is a risk, but Panama City had little or no damage to homes with the exception of Pinnacle Port where no dredging was done. Dredging is expensive but effective if it is done every few years. The dune scraping may make the beaches look better but it is a waste of time and money as far as slowing any erosion goes. This county and its citizens have to pull together and stop using golden water buckets and Evian water to put out a forest fire. Spending hundreds of thousands, even millions of dollars on scraping sand that will wash away in 30 minutes is a waste. Bulkheads and poorly designed beach walkovers just add to the debris. The force of moving water is much stronger than most realize. It vaporized the dunes in minutes. I see a lot of panic and reactionary response but we have to agree on two things. We can?t stop the water and the dunes don?t protect us from the water. The sooner we all realize that, the sooner we can all agree and get working on the very few solutions we have. And there really are only a few.