A rising Tide

339 A Rising Tide

It’s everywhere: Sea-level rise’s surprising reach damaging more than East Coast shoreline

Kelly Powers and Dinah Voyles Pulver, USA TODAY

February 5, 2023·

Sections of 2,200 feet of geotextile tubes installed in 2019 behind 13 private lots on Ponte Vedra Beach have been uncovered by erosion from a recent storm.

A walk down this 6-mile stretch of Florida beach might feel different than others.

Some things are the same. Rolling waves reach into smooth sheets, polishing the beach. Seaweed and shells tumble and settle, tumble and settle.

Look to the land, and the view is unexpected. Dunes have been carved into jagged cliffs. Strange canvas tubing pokes out of eroding sand mounds.

Keep walking and the view changes again. Newly imported plants grip a rebuilt dune, the result of an expensive human project.

Ponte Vedra Beach is just one place that provides a firsthand view of all the problems storm surge and high tides and sea-level rise bring in with them.

Seawalls jut from the sand, blamed by some for additional erosion elsewhere. Residents installed over 2,000 feet of geotextile tubing along the beaten dunes, with mixed results.

Meanwhile, their homes peer over a sand cliff’s edge.

“People are trying to beat Mother Nature,” said Nancy Condron, who built a home on this beach with her husband in 2008. “And what they really need to do is move their structures back and have a natural dune.”

Condron has been vocal in her opinions, having built west of the state’s coastal construction limits, but debates persist.

“It’s depressing.”