Newport Pier in Sunny Isles Beach on a sunny day.

Beach Protection in Sunny Isles Beach

By Commissioner Isaac Aelion

(January 12, 2015) – By all accounts, the little Island of Kiribati in the South Pacific Ocean is poised to become the first victim of rising sea levels in the next few decades rendering it uninhabitable. One may think, what has this fact to do with the beautiful City of Sunny Isles Beach? Well, rising sea levels coupled with beach erosion do not discriminate where they occur. Our beautiful beaches in Sunny Isles Beach are no exception. While our local Government can do very little about rising sea levels, beach erosion is something we take very seriously and are tackling the problem head on.

First some historical perspective. Recognizing the importance to its vital tourism industry, in 1986 the state of Florida began the steps of restoring and protecting the state’s beaches through a comprehensive beach management planning program. Under the program, the Department of Environmental Protection through the Division of Water Resource Management was entrusted in evaluating beach erosion problems throughout the state and coming up with viable solutions. In 1998 the Florida Legislature, recognizing that local government participation must be part of the solution, adopted the Strategic Beach Management Plan under Section 161.101, Florida Statutes, wherein under the plan, Local Government, including Miami-Dade County, the local government with whom the State has contracted to manage our beach, can request funding for beach restoration and nourishment through the Beach Management Funding Assistance Program. It was through this program that the City benefited from a large-scale nourishment project in 2001 wherein over a million cubic yards of sand were added to our beach. Since that time, the City has worked closely with Miami-Dade County and the State of Florida to address hot spot areas within our boundaries.

The Haulover Park jetty and inlet channel, just south of Sunny Isles Beach, interrupts the natural flow of sand along the City’s Beaches, causing an accumulation of sand in the inlet channel and the jetty on one side of the inlet, and a loss of sand to the beaches on the other side, in this case the beaches along Sunny Isles Beach. The preferred way to restore beach erosion along the City’s ocean side built areas is through beach nourishment. In a typical beach nourishment project, sand is collected from an offshore location by a dredge and is piped onto the beach. A slurry of sand and water exits the pipe on the beach and once the water drains away, only sand is left behind. Then bulldozers move this new sand on the beach until the beach matches the design profile. This undertaking is a very costly one and that is where the State Beach Management Funding Assistance Program comes in handy.

In the last Commission Meeting held in December 2014, the issue was discussed and Mayor Scholl along with the rest of the Commission decided unanimously to instruct the City Manager and staff to take the necessary action to address the beach erosion along the City’s beaches and report back to the Commission with suggested concrete steps.