Much of the sand brought to Honeymoon Island in a project completed just eight months ago to shore up the eroding beach has washed away.
But officials say the $2-million effort, funded by the state, was still in the area's best financial and safety interest.
The 137,000 cubic yards of sand dredged and pumped from Hurricane Path, an inlet to the south of Honeymoon Island, has gradually shifted southward, creating a small lagoon for wading and revealing the rocks on the northern portion of the island's beach.
In the northern area of the beach, there was once 5 to 6 feet of sand. Now there's mostly rocks.
"I'm surprised that it moved so quickly," said Peter Krudler, Honeymoon Island's park manager. "I thought we'd get another year or two out of it."
In addition to pumping in sand, the project included building a granite rock structure along the shore. Krudler said it has been helpful in retaining some of the sand.
Rows and rows of sea oat grass was planted along the shore and those are doing fine.
A team of surveyors will inspect the beach to get an accurate account of how much of the sand was lost.
Krudler said the impact on gulf currents from Tropical Storm Fay and Hurricane Gustav has hurt.
"The two storms didn't help out," he said. "The beach has gotten beaten up pretty much over the spring and summer time."
The state already was in the planning stages for another restoration project that could include putting up additional walls to slow erosion, Krudler said. That project could begin as early as 2010.
Nicole Elko, a coastal coordinator for Pinellas County, said beach nourishment is a maintenance project and that every two to five years it is planned to replenish the beaches with sand. She said hurricanes are the main reason the beaches are renourished.
"When the storm surge comes, you want a wide beach and sand bar," Elko said. "That way, the beach and sand bar will dissipate the energy and you will not have waves breaking in on your infrastructure.
"When a hurricane is heading your way, you want as much sand as possible between you and the ocean."
Krudler said the restoration efforts are needed because of the economic impact to the area. He said Honeymoon Island receives a million visitors a year and brings $50-million a year to the local economy.
"The economic benefit to the local economy far exceeds what we have spent," Krudler said.
The good news in all this? The sand loss has not affected the shorebirds or sea turtles. The area with sand movement has too much foot traffic and the birds would not nest in those areas anyway, Krudler said.
There were two sea turtle nests in the southern portion of the beach this year, he said. The egg in one has hatched; the other nest fell victim to storms and was overwashed.
Demorris A. Lee can be reached at 445-4174 or [email protected]