Wednesday, December 31, 2014

As Rising Sea Level Chomps at Cape Canaveral, NASA Uses Nature-Friendly Solution

Research student Kyle Sexton stands in a depression behind a beach berm at low tide along the Cape Canaveral shoreline. The all-terrain vehicle is equipped with global positioning equipment to help measure beach erosion in the area. (Credit: Peter Adams) Click to Enlarge.
Along Florida's most famous slice of waterfront, the water is taking a bigger and bigger bite.  As the level of the Atlantic Ocean has pushed higher, it has begun gobbling up the shoreline along Cape Canaveral.

Scientists from the University of Florida and the U.S. Geological Survey began studying the problem in 2009, finding that what was going on could not be explained by typical Florida beach erosion.  This was climate change at work, with a warmer ocean expanding beyond its old bounds.

To deal with the problem, NASA came up with a solution beyond the typical Florida beach renourishment project, one that saved money and is likely to last a lot longer than a beach renourishment project would.
Throughout most of Florida, the typical answer to beach erosion is dredging sand from underwater and using it to rebuild the shoreline, a method called beach renourishment. Thirty-five of Florida's 67 counties have used taxpayer money to artificially enhance their beaches in this way, plumping them up like a fading star injecting collagen in her too-thin lips.

But NASA decided to do things differently.  Instead of building back the shoreline, the agency used beach sand from a project at nearby Patrick Air Force Base to build, over about seven months earlier this year, a second, mile long line of dunes inland from the area where the erosion was occurring.  Total cost: $2.8 million.

"Renourishment would be much more expensive,"  said Nancy Bray, director of center operations for Kennedy Space Center.  Besides, she pointed out, the rising sea would just wipe out the built-up beach all over again, requiring NASA to spend even more of the taxpayers' money.

Even better, she said, is the fact that the second dune system created habitat for several endangered and threatened species that call Cape Canaveral home.

Read more at As Rising Sea Level Chomps at Cape Canaveral, NASA Uses Nature-Friendly Solution

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