I have two cases in point I want to mention here. One is South Florida, but probably better put as all of Florida for that matter. The second is North Carolina and particularly the upper beaches of the Outer Banks, although like Florida, the problem is one facing the entire coast of the state and other states beyond as well. And there is also another issue about what dredging does to the sea water vis-a-vis fishing but it is more of a problem in Florida since the Labrador Current dissipates the silt much more quickly than in Florida with her normally much calmer waters.
In South Florida, heavy rains are something never unusual in the warm tropical like environs, but sadly, the Atlantic as well as the Gulf of Mexico are used as the emergency sewer for Lake Okeechobee. When all of the sugar industry waste which is pumped into Lake Okeechobee is met with massive rainfall, the lake is opened to dump the overage into rivers which flow east and west. Sugar waste is sweet and bacteria grows rapidly from it in warm water, so the nasty result ends up in both the ocean and the gulf and leaves a disgusting slime and smell which ruins pristine beaches which then can't be enjoyed. And since Florida is a major tourist state, as the word gets out, the tourists look for other options and the natural beauty of Florida for vacations is captured by man made amusement parks. At some point, as the parks get so overcrowded that it's no longer fun to come there, people will look for other destinations in other states and Florida will lose its luster. In some cases, it already has.
Regarding the Outer Banks, principally the towns of Nags Head, Kill Devil Hills, Kitty Hawk and Southern Shores, population has grown many times over. Back in the 1950s, those towns had a full time population of around one thousand. Today, the full time population is in the tens of thousands, some recent estimates claim it to be over sixty-five thousand. This, however, is just the tip of the iceberg since during the same period visitors have grown from less than one hundred thousand annually to what some sources estimate seven million in a year. This could only be accomplished with massive building, not just on the oceanfront but in the lowlands between the beach dunes on the east and the larger sand dunes back near the piney woods by Roanoke Sound. So, what does this mean?
Well, picture an above water level sand bar that is long and rather narrow. The lay of the land from the ocean to the sound on a topographical map would resemble a shallow cake pan with a lower center area and higher on front and back. This land in the middle that was previously undeveloped served as a filter of the water, allowing water from excess rain and even ocean overflow to percolate out through the sand below. With the massive construction in those areas of homes and inland cottages, motels, hotels, restaurants and shopping centers and so much more there is no open scrub land left to percolate out the water. Concrete and macadam don't allow for that. So, when water rushes in to the previous safety valve land, it has nowhere to go and it floods, both roads and properties including buildings. Evaporation won't solve it, the developed drainage systems are woefully incapable, so the only thing else to do is pump the water out into the ocean. Hot, stagnant rain water, coupled with sewage leaks and other waste water issues, means that algae blooms and associated waste set a pattern of bacteria growth and it all ultimately gets pumped into the ocean, the lifeblood of tourism for those former small beach towns which are now big tourist destinations.
Like Florida, when the bacteria-created blooms and slime gets too heavy, the smell is strong and the local authorities finally admit their answers to the problem aren't solutions at all, pushing for more development where what they have is already problematic. Bad things happen when problems are ignored. This writer is not trying to be a pessimist, just a realist talking about the truth, a subject which no developer or politician really wants to face head on. Power and money have a way of doing that. So, in the end, something has to give and if man doesn't, it will be the barrier island to the whims of the sea. The beautiful inhabited sand bar will either disappear in a horrific natural disaster or become uninhabitable. Just like poorly run big cities fall into disrepair and decay, the same can happen on the beach as well. Sadly, God's requirement to maintain proper dominion over the beaches has been violated by the lack of application of common sense and a substitution of man's false dreams of grandeur and glory. Florida and the Outer Banks are just two obvious examples of where that is happening on a continuing rapid scale. They won't be the last.