203-1 South Texas Gulf Beach Maintenance as a Geological Process

Monday, 6 October 2008: 1:30 PM
George R. Brown Convention Center, 310BE
Jennifer M. Smith-Engle, Environmental Science Program, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, Corpus Christi, TX
Beach maintenance along the south Texas coast is reshaping Gulf beach morphology. Sargassum and associated sand are scraped from the beaches of Mustang and North Padre Islands via front-end loaders, and subsequently deposited as artificial dune lines seaward of the natural fore-island dunes. This practice has narrowed the beach by tens of meters in places over the past few decades, and possibly lowered the beach profile by several centimeters, and some Mustang and North Padre Island Gulf beaches have little remaining backshore. Major concerns include impeded beach visitor access due to a narrowed beach and possible damage to sea-turtle nests from regular use of heavy equipment. Local governments have responded by investigating new technologies such as raking to reduce the volume of sand recovered with the scraped Sargassum, and alternate practices such as burying Sargassum in place in the foreshore, “back-stacking” (deposition of debris at designated sites landward of the fore-island dunes), and blowing recovered Sargassum and sand directly into the fore-island dunes. Leaving Sargassum in place on the beach is an option to eliminate impacts altogether and will reduce beach-maintenance costs, but education about the benefits of Sargassum on the beach would be required to encourage public acceptance.