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Sand Management

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Sand in the Southeast

Sand is a critical resource for the Southeast United States. Our sandy beaches draw millions of people to live and visit, and offshore sand shoals provide valuable ecological habitat. Since sand is a finite resource, there is a need to find a balance between its socioeconomic and ecological use. Multiple organizations are working to improve long-term sand management. Explore the resources below to learn more about sand in the Southeast, how to access available data and opportunities to further collaboration across the region.

Project Overview

Click on the icons to go to the following sections:

SAND INFORMATION

Southeast Facts

DATA ACCESS

Federal Data Resources, State and Local – Best Practices

OPPORTUNITIES

Data, Permitting and Regulations, Coordination


Understanding Sand in the Southeast U.S.

Caption: Coastal Science and Engineering (Pawley’s Island)

Offshore shoals, riverine deltas, and oceanfront beaches are some of the Southeast Atlantic coastal features comprised of sand. These features have ecological and socio-economic value across the region. How we manage this connected system will impact the long-term sustainability of our coast. And the connected nature of sand, which sand is deposited from river systems and travels along the coast with wave energy, necessitates working across boundaries.   

Socio-Economic Values:

  • A well-developed beach system absorbs wave energy, decreases coastal flooding, and provides a buffer to sea level rise – functions that provide protection to oceanfront communities and infrastructure.
  • Beaches also provide recreational opportunities for people, boosting state and local economies.
  • Shoals contribute greatly to the recreational fishing industry, a major economic section for the South Atlantic region.
  • The nation’s beaches generate about $225 billion a year for the national economy and contribute approximately $25 billion in federal tax revenue, which not only makes them valuable to our nation’s and state’s economy, but also critical to local coastal economies (USACE).

Ecological Values:

  • Beaches provide natural habitat for a variety of plants and animals, including shorebirds and sea turtles.
  • Sandy shoals located offshore provide habitat for benthic invertebrates, fishes, and food for shorebirds and larger predatory fishes.

QUICK FACTS

  • Between 2008-2018, South Atlantic states completed 208 beach nourishment projects using over 105 million cubic yards of sand
  • Over $2.5 billion has been spent on beach nourishment projects across the southeast

Accessing Sand Data and Tools

Sand and beach data are compiled, assessed, and distributed at multiple scales which can make it challenging to find existing resources. Below are brief descriptions and direct web links to several key resources. A table of sand data resources that were reviewed as part of the project will be soon made available.

State Resources

NORTH CAROLINA

A cooperative agreement with BOEM supported an Offshore Sand Resources Investigation completed in 2016. Data was originally shared through a NC Coastal Atlas, which is no longer active.

SOUTH CAROLINA

South Carolina does not maintain an online tool relating to state sand data; however, a South Carolina Offshore Sand Resources – Data Inventory and Needs Assessment was completed in 2016 with support from BOEM.

GEORGIA

The Georgia Coastal Hazards Portal provides access to a variety of data sets, including sediment distribution and characteristics, though an online mapping tool.

FLORIDA

Florida’s Regional Offshore Sand Source Inventory (ROSSI) is accessible through an online portal maintained by the FL Department of Environmental Protection

Federal Resources

The three federal agencies with online sand resources information are the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). To visit a specific site, click on the associated image.

BOEM Marine Minerals Information Systems (MMIS)

An interactive tool that provides public access to data and information relevant to offshore mineral resources throughout the United States

USACE Sand Availability and Needs Determination (SAND)

Part of the South Atlantic Coastal Assessment, the SAND analysis quantifies sand needs and available sand resources for current Southeast beach nourishment projects for the next 50 years

NOAA/BOEM Ocean Reports

Using data from the federal Marine Cadastre, the Ocean Reports website provides specialized “ocean neighborhood analyses,” including maps and graphics, by analyzing more than 100 ocean datasets instantaneously


Opportunities and Recommendations

To better understand how existing data is used and what opportunities there are for additional collaboration across the region, interviews were conducted with sand constituents from across the region. Following recommendations that stemmed from conversations with government agencies, consultants, and researchers:

Data Access and Tools

  • Existing resources that are used to help identify potential sand borrow sites include:
    • Federal data sources and online tools, including the Mineral Management Information System and U.S. Seabed
    • Topographic and bathymetric maps to determine where to investigate based on geological features
    • Sand research studies led by government agencies and universities, including USGS SC and BOEM Hurricane Sandy Assessments
  • The dispersed nature of existing sand data sources can make it challenging to find what is available

Data Gaps and Sources

  • Data gaps exist within state waters
  • Potential borrow sites identified by BOEM can help prioritize areas to collect more detailed data
  • Monitoring and tracking changes at borrow sites can help understand the viability of reusing sites and impacts on biological resources
  • Engineering firms and consultants work closely with local government to identify borrow sites. The data collected is provided within technical reports for permitting. Collating this data could help fill gaps.
  • Identify criteria that will ensure that data collected meets management requirements

Permitting and Regulations

  • State and local beach sand requirements (e.g. grain size, color) vary which can limit the number of viable sand sources. Opportunity exists to compare across states for best practices and evaluate the impact of some restrictions which may limit beneficial use opportunities or borrow sites.
  • Beach nourishment projects are funded by a variety of public and private methods. In some cased, regulations place restrictions on what can be funded and how projects are designed, potentially limiting innovative and new methodology. Reviewing restrictions, evaluating and piloting new methodologies, and identifying funding to augment existing dollars could help fill gaps.
  • Each state, in coordination with federal agencies.  has an existing permitting process in place for beach nourishment projects. Coastal communities and contractors are experienced with this process which is generally effective for planned projects. Emergency post storm actions present greater challenges and could benefit from review.

Collaboration and Funding

  • Decrease in regional communication: Enhance collaboration between federal, state and local partners
  • Share best practices across data sharing and access between state and local governments
  • Connect public and private constituents
  • Identify new sources of funding to support research and management, state and local mechanisms, including support for data collection and/or analysis

Regional Ocean Data Sharing Project Overview: Southeast Sand Resources

Project Description: The project is designed to enhance collaboration across the varied sand/seafloor related projects underway across the southeast and to better understand decision-maker needs in order to prioritize data collection  and inform future tool development around sand management in the southeast.

Long-term Vision: Vision A user friendly collaboration mechanism that engages state, federal and local stakeholders in the long-term sustainable management of sand in the southeast.

Objectives:

  1. Foster collaboration amongst organizations mapping sand resources and seafloor habitat across the southeast (BOEM, US ACE, NOAA, state agencies and universities)
  2. Connect technical leads with coastal managers and communities to share existing data/tools and discuss their relevance
  3. Better understand the critical gaps for long-term sand management across the region.
  4. Develop communication materials that can be used by diverse partners to share the importance of and needs related to sand in the southeast

Steering Committee:

Jill Andrews
Georgia Department of Natural Resources
Bob Crimian
The Nature Conservancy
Barbara Neale
South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control
Robert Brantly
Florida Department of Environmental Protection
Debra Hernandez
Southeast Coastal Ocean Observing Regional Association
David Stein
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Heather Coates
North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality
John McCombs
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Megan Treml
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Mary Conley
The Nature Conservancy
Clay McCoy
United States Army Corps of Engineers
Lora Turner
Bureau of Ocean Energy Management