It wasn’t welcome, but the powerful wintry storm that did significant additional damage to Key Biscayne’s Atlantic Beach this weekend may have served a constructive purpose for a group of visiting Army Corps of Engineers officials.
On Friday, Village Manager Steve Williamson, himself a former Corps colonel, led about two dozen officials from the Army and county agencies, and they saw intense erosion at the Beach Club. They stood and watched as 35 mph gusts propelled big waves onto the shore, tearing at dunes and protective beach grasses.
“Bad,” was the one-word assessment of the island’s chief resilience officer, Roland Samimy. A renourishment already planned to make up for Hurricanes Ian and Nicole and a storm last month will now likely need to be boosted — perhaps up to 31,000 cubic yards of sand, he said.
Williamson said having the senior managers witness the vulnerability of the beach in real-time may work to the island’s advantage as it seeks inclusion in the Federal Shore Protection program. The Corps is readying what is known as an “Integrated Feasibility Study.”
“We lost a lot of sand,” he said, saying the erosion gave Village officials a reason to revive the idea of an offshore structure to mitigate sand losses. “They were very surprised at how high it was and how much it had eroded.”
Also making an impact for Corps officials, the manager said, was the realization that all of the shoreline protection on the bay side of the island will involve private property. “We’re going to have some creative solutions on how we protect that back side.”
Friday was the kickoff for an evaluation that will culminate Feb. 28, when the Village and Corps will lay out a first set of options for protecting shoreline — scope, cost, and project timelines.
“They are moving quickly,” Williasmon said of the Army Corp’s timetable.
The Village is planning to prepare for the February meeting with workshops starting January 24th, followed by public open houses. The Corps is also soliciting email comments to this address, no later than Dec. 27.
The weekend storm knocked power out and trapped some people in elevators, said Fire Chief Eric Lang. It also briefly killed power during the singing of “Silent Night” at Crossbridge Church Saturday — but the finale by the acapella Seraphic Fire group went on.
“Spooky,” said conductor James Bass.
Tony Winton is the editor-in-chief of the Key Biscayne Independent and president of Miami Fourth Estate, Inc. He worked previously at The Associated Press for three decades winning multiple Edward R. Murrow awards. He was president of the News Media Guild, a journalism union, for 10 years. Born in Chicago, he is a graduate of Columbia University. His interests are photography and technology, sailing, cooking, and science fiction.