Monday, December 18, 2017
News Roundup

The life and death of sand dunes

CLEARWATER — Pity the selfless sand dunes, rounded guardians of the beach. The tides wage wars of attrition against them. Beachfront landowners with weed whackers and bulldozers illegally chop them to bits.

But few recent onslaughts have matched the ferocity of Tropical Storm Debby. With surging surf, the storm reclaimed large chunks of dunes to the Gulf of Mexico, scattering sea oats and sea turtle nests across North Clearwater Beach.

State environmental engineers report that dunes there receded up to 8 feet. Beach regulars protective of the wind-crafted hills estimate the losses were twice as severe.

Left in their wake were stringy clusters of sea oats and sheer sandy cliffs, 6 feet tall and sharply eroded. Six nearby sea turtle nests also were ravaged, with 600 loggerhead eggs vanished in the surf.

"The sand eroded up to the dunes and stopped. The water didn't keep coming up to the seawall," said Lisa Lanza, who watched from the Regatta Beach Club as Debby-driven surf flowed eastward across the beach. "If the dunes weren't there, it would have kept coming."

Structured by sea oats and whipped forth by wind-blown sand, the dunes are legally protected habitats for shorebirds and migrating butterflies. In the late 1980s, officials dispatched bulldozers to reinforce them along the Clearwater coast.

North Beach, densely developed from shore to shore, depends in particular on the strength of its dunes. They are the first and sometimes only line of defense between millions of dollars in waterfront real estate and the spill of rising tides.

But dunes remain despised by some beach landowners as old-world inconveniences.

The dunes harbor beach mice and sandspurs, and bear no shame about trespassing on private patios or blocking homeowners' views.

Last year Clearwater Beach had the most reports of dune violations in the state, including several Eldorado Avenue homeowners who flattened them with heavy machinery.

For those homes, members of the Clearwater Beach Association said, the storm showed a certain karmic justice. Unslowed by dunes, water there surged further inland, flooding roads and some low-lying land.

Last week, while speaking with Gov. Rick Scott, Mayor George Cretekos renewed calls for stronger enforcement of dune rules. Beachgoers have bemoaned the state's lax oversight of dunes. The local Department of Environmental Protection inspector is responsible for 100 miles of coast.

"Our beaches took a hit," Cretekos said Thursday. "It shows the value of the dunes to protect the beach, and hopefully the governor's staff will understand they need to do a better job of enforcing those regulations."

Dunes can be rebuilt with dredged sand, though the process is timely and expensive, and Sand Key and Belleair Beach remain at the head of the line for local beach renourishment. The North Beach dunes likely will be rebuilt the old-fashioned way, by winds and whirling sand.

In the meantime, North Beach's flattened dunes could give way to unexpected life: nesting shorebirds, like snowy plovers and least terns, that have avoided the beach for years.

The dunes for them present a more primal view-obstruction problem: sea oats can cloak predatory cats and raccoons.

The flat white sand left by this cycle of renewal, said Marianne Korosy, a biologist with Audubon of Florida, could leave them with "a nice open view."

Drew Harwell can be reached at (727) 445-4170 or [email protected]

Comments
Advocates push orca breeding law as SeaWorld’s policy appears murky

Advocates push orca breeding law as SeaWorld’s policy appears murky

The announcement was rolled out to the world as a pledge. A promise.In March 2016 SeaWorld declared it would end killer whale breeding, making the orcas in its care in the United States and abroad its last generation to live in captivity.Later that y...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Atlanta airport power outage cancels 1,000 flights; more Delta cancellations Monday

Atlanta airport power outage cancels 1,000 flights; more Delta cancellations Monday

ATLANTA — A sudden power outage brought the world’s busiest airport to a standstill Sunday, grounding more than 1,000 flights in Atlanta just days before the start of the Christmas travel rush. Authorities announced that electricity would be restored...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Bucs-Falcons: Things to watch in Monday’s 8:30 p.m. game

Bucs-Falcons: Things to watch in Monday’s 8:30 p.m. game

TAMPA — The Bucs and Falcons have each won three straight games on Monday nights as they face each other on a national platform tonight at Raymond James Stadium.How can Tampa Bay continue its streak and stop Atlanta’s? It won’t be easy, but given the...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Bitcoin futures begin trading on CME, price little changed

NEW YORK — Another security based on the price of bitcoin, the digital currency that has soared in value and volatility this year, began trading on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange on Sunday. The CME Group, which owns the exchange, opened up bitcoin f...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Woman shot and killed in apparent drive-by shooting in Clearwater

CLEARWATER — A woman was shot to death Sunday night in an apparent drive-by shooting, according to Clearwater police.Authorities said they received an initial call at 8:19 p.m. originating from 800 Belleair Road. The shooting is believed to have occu...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Bucs fans call for Jon Gruden — why was he fired to begin with?

Bucs fans call for Jon Gruden — why was he fired to begin with?

TAMPA — The beers and the "love ya, bros" were flowing Saturday night at the Hooters in Tampa. Jon Gruden, who will be inducted into the Bucs Ring of Honor at halftime of tonight’s home game against the Falcons, worked the room, greeting family, frie...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Fennelly: Jon Gruden was one hard-working bro

Fennelly: Jon Gruden was one hard-working bro

TAMPA — It’s ridiculous that it took this long to give Jon Gruden a night all his own, given the nights he gave Bucs fans. But it will happen this evening at Raymond James Stadium, a salute to the thermonuclear source of that Super Bowl season, that ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Massachusetts rolls 100-foot-long joint; McCain likely to miss tax bill vote; Cherokee Nation’s fear of losing heritage drives opioid lawsuit; more in U.S. news

Massachusetts rolls 100-foot-long joint; McCain likely to miss tax bill vote; Cherokee Nation’s fear of losing heritage drives opioid lawsuit; more in U.S. news

Massachusetts Rolling a fat one — 100 feet longMarijuana aficionados have rolled a 100-foot-long joint. The effort was led by Boston-based cannabis club and advocacy group Beantown Greentown during an exhibition of pro-marijuana vendors and supporter...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Trump says he isn’t considering firing Mueller

Trump says he isn’t considering firing Mueller

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Sunday that he is not considering firing special counsel Robert Mueller even as his administration was again forced to grapple with the growing Russia inquiry that has shadowed the White House for much of his ...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Friendly competition

Friendly competition

 
Updated: 8 hours ago