Beaches are a critical component of the coastal environment, providing recreational and aesthetic value as well as storm protection for coastal communities and homeowners. They also provide critical habitat for endangered species of shorebirds and sea turtles, while adjacent nearshore hardbottom and reefs provide essential structure for a wide variety of marine species. Beaches are directly impacted by inlets and navigation channels, with longshore sand transport to down-current beaches interrupted by these breaks in the coastline. Beaches also experience significant erosion due to a combination of severe storms along with the increasing sea level rise. To partially remedy this situation, “beach nourishment” places sand back in these highly eroded areas to restore and maintain the functionality of the beach system.
Biological Monitoring Programs
CSA scientists have been designing and conducting biological monitoring programs to assess the impacts of beach nourishment on adjacent nearshore hardbottom, reef habitat, or seagrass areas for nearly 30 years throughout Florida. Each of these programs generally includes an initial baseline characterization survey of sensitive marine resources adjacent to the proposed project area and presentation of the results to regulatory agencies. If the project has the potential to impact sensitive marine resources, a biological monitoring program will be designed, and, following agency approval, it will be implemented. The monitoring may include the collection of video and photographic data of the biological communities, the establishment of repetitive sampling stations or transects, and in-situ health assessments of various species, with surveys conducted before, during, and after sand placement activities. CSA scientists are currently conducting multiple monitoring programs for beach nourishment and restoration projects in five South Florida counties.
Beach monitoring programs, which typically include pre-construction, immediate post-construction, and several annual post-construction surveys, are conducted either under subcontracts to coastal engineering firms or directly for county/local governments. The monitoring programs typically require intensive levels of diving, with staff often working under physically challenging conditions in rough, turbid waters. CSA has extremely capable staff trained and experienced in diving under the difficult physical conditions in both nearshore and offshore environments, while utilizing a wide range of survey and sampling equipment and a fleet of small vessels to provide responsive action under most conditions. CSA has maintained an established scientific diving program for nearly 45 years and is a corporate member in good standing of the American Academy of Underwater Sciences (AAUS). Our Diving Safety Officer and Health, Safety, and Environment Officer develop, schedule, and manage ongoing training and certification programs, and maintain corporate and individual records for the diving program.