By ROB NIXON
Special to the PRESS
Beach Erosion. The scourge of our beaches. At least that is what many would tell you. The reality is that beach erosion is the scourge of development. It has been often said that there is no erosion problem on our coasts until a structure is in place. Essentially, no one notices that the coast is actually dynamic and constantly moving to adapt to the ocean until we stick a marker on it, whether that marker be a property line, a pole, a fence or a building. The wet beach is moving. The dunes are moving. The vegetation is moving. They are adjusting to the pressures of the ocean, constantly ebbing and flowing in harmony with the power of water and achieving a symbiotic existence. This is a natural fact.
We live on a barrier island. She doesn’t recognize man’s desire to build. As sea levels rise, as storm surges attack, as the lower geological strata compact over time and as the wind blows the sand, our little sliver of sand adjusts. Sand will be pushed back, it will wash out into sand bars and it will be transported back to the beach over time. It may not be placed back in its original location but it will return in most cases. Wind will blow the sand north, south, east and west. If left alone, our little sliver of sand we all enjoy would migrate further and further landward toward the mainland as these forces interact with it. In this way you can personify a barrier island as a dancer. It submits to the will of the dancer in the lead and that leader is the ocean.
Of course, this does not happen within the City Limits of South Padre Island anymore. The dancer has been bound by retaining walls on both sides and the dance and its once dynamic life has ceased. On her bay side she can no longer move toward the mainland. On our ocean side the natural transfer of sand has been stopped by buildings and by retaining walls exacerbating erosion. We, her “lovers,” have been forced into keeping her barely alive with beach nourishment projects and dune restoration waiting for that one final blow from the ocean. We are locked in a never ending cycle of care for a loved one that is on life support.
To the north there is hope though. Hope to keep our beloved island dynamic and thriving where she is still wild and free. There is hope to not repeat the mistakes of our past, to let her breathe and move and to dance with the ocean. It is still a blank slate, though a slate with lines already drawn for the “cosmetic surgery” we want to inflict upon her because some fail to see the beauty she really is for a short sighted dream of profiting off of her. There are ways for us to live together and benefit from one another and that is what needs to be achieved. Not exploitation but conservation. Not conquest but respect.
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