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Beach to be rebuilt - again

Since sand was trucked to Upham Beach four years ago, at a cost of$1.5-million, about 80 feet of the shore has been sucked away by currents and blown away by strong winds.

Still, the county, state and federal governments plan to spend nearly the same amount to rebuild the beach with dredged sand this spring.

"We know historically that whatever we pump in the next couple months has to be done (again) every two or three or four years," said Danny Walker, the St. Petersburg Beach assistant city manager.

Walker and other city officials are not convinced that's such a great pattern. They are traveling to Jacksonville next week to discuss the problem with coastal experts at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

"It's been a problem for 30 years," Walker said Thursday. "There are many, many things that have caused the problem."

Upham Beach is just south of Blind Pass, a channel that nature has been trying to close ever since a hurricane opened it years ago, Walker said. In the process, sand from Upham Beach has repeatedly migrated to the channel.

Jetties built to stop that migration have trapped sand and built up the beach on the other side of the pass, but at the expense of Upham Beach, he said.

The situation has been further exacerbated by all the construction along the shore, Walker said.

As he sees it, there may be two ways to tackle the problem: Build another jetty and continue dredging and pumping sand to the beach every few years, or spend millions of dollars buying the Gulf-front properties so the buildings can be torn down and the erosion slowed.

Either way, this spring's project to rebuild the beach should go on as scheduled, Walker said.

It will cost between $700,000 and $1-million, said Pinellas County engineer Jim Terry. The federal government pays half, Walker said, and the county and state split the rest.