Sucking It Up

The mechanical wonder that is taking place on and off our Long Beach shore is only matched by the natural wonder of our shorebirds dealing with it, some shore creatures coping better than our human denizens.

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Shorebirds eye a strange yellowbird crane perched on an old jetty


The shore of Long Beach, NY has been undergoing heavy renovation since last year. I watched the progression of the work and the perseverance of our denizens through my camera’s viewfinder.

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Boulders trucked in from New Jersey await jetty placement

As work progressed our shore looked more like a beach battlefield than a place of sun and fun.

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Booming noise, earth-shaking rumblings, giant mechanized units groaning under the tonnage of boulders.


Protective dunes from sand dredged from the sea will run along our beach access, these pilings will be the base of dune crossover walkways

Pile drivers boring and pound, pound, pounding, deep into the sand.


A pile driver boring for a twenty-three-foot deep placement of the piles

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Piledriver reloads timber

But as I watched the shorebirds, I saw they not only take it all in stride…they take advantage of opportunities:

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Shorebirds perch on pilings at Long Beach, NY

Yes, we’re getting ready for another possible “hundred-year” Sandy storm surge.

First, through incredible examples of human capacity, jetties were artfully dismantled and rebuilt:

The old jetties circa 1930-’32 (info from witness to the old jetty installations, Lou Ehrlich, pre-centenarian of Long Beach and a lifeguard here in 1938).

Those jetties bore the brunt of the 1938 Long Island  Express hurricane in which 600 American lives were lost. Early warnings were not as advanced nor as accurate as today, of course.

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An old jetty, foreground, a new jetty background.

Today sand from the ocean bed is being sucked from the ocean depths to fortify or re-nourish our beach. All to mitigate another storm surge the likes of the more recent, Sandy.

This placement of seabed sand on our shore is part of a “soft engineering” approach to dealing with beach erosion, as opposed to “hard engineering” with structures like seawalls, groins, and jetties. Apparently, we at Long Beach are combining the approaches.

Recently the City of Long Beach granted the Army Corps of Engineers a variance to work 24/7 to finish all the work this season. A lot of noise and disturbance, yes, but without the variance, the work wouldn’t be completed till mid-2019…after we’ve gone through this hurricane season.


The huge dredge, an oddity on our horizon.

Through the use of a dredge, sand is sucked from the seabed and sent up to what looked to me like an ocean howitzer. But of course, my howitzer background colors my perspective.


Perhaps to the perspective of our shorebirds, it’s a huge waterfowl. But this Oystercatcher just deals with it and dredges the tide for protein.

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The “howitzer” was later connected to a huge pipe that now runs the length of our shore.

DSC_5591.jpg Part of the pipe can be seen here, sometimes going under the surface to rise and submerge, again and again like a serpentine Loch Ness monster. All while sunbathers sun and wading creatures are in their moments.


Paired shore denizens ignore the “serpent” offshore.

About 80% of America’s beaches are eroding and re-nourishing them is a very costly endeavor. But these beaches are commonly an economic engine for local communities. They also contribute greatly to the nation’s economy. California beaches alone contribute 73 billion dollars to America’s economy. So, keeping these beaches nourished, and the people and structures near them protected, is definitely worth the cost.

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An Oystercatcher takes it all in stride and finds serenity where it will…as do we all

The dredge pipe then exits the sea at the West End of Long Beach.

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From there it pumps the slurry tonnage onto our Western shore.

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Slurry from the seabed appears to be more a gusher of oil than sand.

Bulldozers spread the sand which I’m told is 70% water at this point. (edit: subsequent info given to me is that the slurry is 1 part sand 7 parts water or 87.5% water) The sand will form a berm up the beach and also increase the width of the beach by 200 to 300 feet, approximately twice the width of the current beach. A wider beach affords more protection for inland structures as the surge dissipates over the broadened beach.

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A bulldozer spreads sand dredged from the sea


A closer look at a gull perhaps seeking opportunity in this “ocean spray”?

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While the bulldozer harvests sand from the sea, a gull seeks to harvest protein in the mix

When completed, half the length of the new jetties will be covered with dredged sand. But after some time, when the littoral drift of the westward flowing current and sand forms the new natural shape of our beach, the sand’s sea edge will retreat further up the beach, about 100′, I’m told.

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Oystercatchers returned to nest in Long Beach, despite enormous renovations

I’m totally amazed at the fantastic engineering feats demonstrated before us at Long Beach. It sounds trite, but it is nonetheless true, that when America puts its mind to it…we can accomplish anything. As did the Oystercatchers which established four nests this year, on our shore, (a record), amidst the trucking, the pounding, the dust, the dredging:

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This new family was formed this year during the beach renovation…despite the renovation

So, we at the ocean’s edge city of Long Beach, NY are well underway for nourishing our beach and fortifying our shore against horrendous storm surges.

But, wait.

Are we re-nourishing and fortifying our strip of white sand, and other minuscule strips of real estate on our globe while ignoring the likely cause of rising sea levels and greater storm surges…climate change?

Have we become too inured to the TV scenes of burning hillsides and homes, torrential downpours flooding towns, again and again, to demand a fortifying of our entire environment…a re-nourishing of Mother Earth?

Isn’t it time we put to use the knowledge and wisdom we dredged from the minds of the wide majority of our scientists, that human-caused climate change is real…and do something about it?

Even if you don’t agree with that huge majority of scientists, do you think it might be bad for your kids to ingest carbon monoxide from tailpipes or smog from coal-fired plants?

Yes, it’s possible that our economy might surge a bit slower if we are kinder to our environment, but isn’t it worth the “pain”. The rest of the world seems to think so.

What of our American exceptionalism? If we are exceptional, shouldn’t we be leading the world?

Sen Lindsay Graham: “I have been to the Antartic, I have been to Alaska, I’m not a scientist, and I’ve got the grades to prove it. But I’ve talked to the climatologists of the world, and 90 percent of them are telling me that the greenhouse gas effect is real. That we’re heating up the planet. I just want a solution that would be good for the economy that doesn’t destroy it.”

Perhaps we need to dredge our own minds and decide what our priorities are for our kids, our grandkids. We need to decide to turn the tide on climate change and if there is some pain, well, maybe follow our shorebirds’ lead and…just suck it up.

A short clip of re-nourishing the shore of the tiny City by the Sea, Long Beach, NY:


Be well,




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