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Longboat Key Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2011 9 years ago

Our View


There is much more to Longboat Key’s beach than the fine white sand that squeaks beneath your feet.
It is a complex and dynamic system.

And how it works and what is required to maintain it is worthwhile for every Longboat taxpayer to know and understand.

The beach, after all, is the largest annual expense in the town’s budget (if you amortize the cost of renourishment). What’s more, it serves as the most important insurance policy and primary source of protection for the $5 billion in developed real estate on Longboat Key.

Think about the latter point: Although many people see the beach primarily as an export that we sell to visitors, more importantly, it serves as the fortress wall that protects our beachfront properties from washing away into the Gulf. As Town Manager Bruce St. Denis puts it: “The cheapest insurance is to have a whole pile of sand in front of your house.”

There’s more to it than that, though. No one will espouse that fact more than St. Denis. Likewise, no one on Longboat Key knows more about the workings of the Key’s beach than does St. Denis.

We had the privilege recently to view a near hour-long slide presentation compiled by St. Denis that explains how the beach we don’t see — the 100 to 200 yards extending under water from the water’s edge — is as important as having enough sand on the dry portion of the beach. This is where the complexities occur and where beach maintenance is most crucial.

The complexities: We know the Gulf’s waves into the shore are constantly pushing sand in and pulling it out. And the littoral drift is constantly moving sand from north to south. Top layers of sand are never static.
And this is why, as St. Denis illustrates in his presentation, it is so crucial to have adequate amounts of sand “in the system” beneath the surface of the water. Indeed, while some data tells us the Key still has more than 90% of the sand from the last renourishment, this is only the dry portion of the beach. St. Denis and the town’s beach engineers can show that, predictably, when you figure in the submerged portions of the beach, the Key has lost 35% of the volume of the sand in the three years since the last renourishment.

To that point, when University of Florida professor Robert Dean, the dean of beach renourishment and erosion in Florida, spoke to the Longboat Key Town Commission last month, he noted that it’s an unavoidable fact of Longboat Key’s beach that it will need constant feeding, constant replenishing, albeit every six to eight years.

The trick is making sure the levels are closely monitored between renourishments to avoid reaching crises, which are often difficult to predict. You never know, for instance, what the Gulf storms will do. Or for that matter, it’s just as difficult to predict how the water flows and currents might change at the Key’s northern tip over multiple years.

All of this is to say, in spite of what it may have seemed — that the town administration and previous Town Commissions have been stuck on a fruitless strategy of dumping large amounts of sand at increasingly higher costs on our beach every six to eight years — there is a thought-out method that isn’t madness.
If you have the time, try to catch St. Denis’ presentation on beach renourishment Saturday morning to the Federation of Longboat Key Condominiums. If not there, consider inviting him to your condominium or homeowners association.

What you’ll learn is important perspective for the next bond-issue referenda on beach renourishment.

: Federation of Longboat Key Condominiums
What: Longboat Key Town Manager Bruce St. Denis will give a presentation on the status of the beach and factors to consider for the town’s renourishment strategy.
When: 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 22
Where: Water Club Community Room/Clubhouse, 1281 Gulf of Mexico Drive
The session is open to the public.

+ The U.S. debt, deficit bombs
Now we shall see. We shall see whether the new U.S. House of Representatives, led by the Republican majority, has the courage of its alleged convictions.

We say “alleged” convictions because we have no definitive actions as of yet to determine whether the Republicans will deliver on their campaign promises and actually cut, reduce, slash and eliminate the national government’s immoral annual deficit spending and immoral debt.

As of Tuesday, with the start of the new Congress, the test of will began. Are they really willing to sacrifice their political power for the financial well-being of future generations?

If they are, severe pain cannot be avoided. It’s as if an economic mushroom cloud is moving our way. Consider:

• Inflation
. Rising prices for food, gas and other commodities are spreading rapidly, thanks largely to our Federal Reserve Bank flooding the market with dollars, i.e. creating and printing money out of thin air. That in itself — printing money — is inflation.

But now, as predicted and to little surprise, we are seeing the effects. In 2010, the Economist magazine’s commodity price index rose 33.5%; industrial materials rose 37.4%.

This price inflation has spread to India and Asia. History (1971, 1980) says it will not be long before it spreads here. We’ve already seen it in gas prices and at the grocery counter. Your dollar does not buy as much as it did a year ago. Printing dollars has made the money in your pocket worth less today than it was a year ago. Unless directions change, the speed at which your dollars lose value will increase.

• Structural deficits. Look at the graphic below. It provides perspective on how far out of whack our annual government spending is vis-a-vis other spendthrift countries. Structural deficits are how much government spending exceeds income even in a healthy economy. We are the Godzilla — out spending our income by $1.2 trillion a year! What family do you know who can sustain that spending so far beyond its means?

National debt. Our gross federal debt will reach $14.3 trillion in March. Borrowing is an addiction. The United States borrows 40 cents for every $1 it spends. And in two months, the federal government’s borrowing will take us to the federal debt ceiling limit once again.

Digest this: In 1917, Congress set our government’s first debt ceiling at $8 billion. Just before World War II, it rose to $65 billion. With Richard Nixon, it reached $431 billion. After 9/11, the debt ceiling was $5.9 trillion. Less than 10 years later, we are soon to top $14 trillion. Our debt has risen 14,000-fold in a century.

William Buckler, a brilliant Australian analyst of global financial issues, writes in his most recent edition of his monthly newsletter, the Privateer: “The progression has become exponential. The end result — the complete collapse of the 20th-century ‘model’ of a financial and monetary system based on governments issuing IOUs — is obviously inevitable. The only remaining question is when will it happen?”

We have reached our economic Rubicon.

The new Republican House must decide whether to raise the ceiling and allow the government to increase the national debt even more or take demonstrative steps that cut spending.

We will find out about the Republicans’ convictions. Meantime, we — all of us — also bear a burden. Just as the Greatest Generation sacrificed in blood and lives to preserve liberty from tyranny in the 1940s, its descendants now face a similar challenge. It’s not war, but it requires similar courage — the courage to support congressman and senators to do what must be done: truly reverse the size of government. Save our children and granchildren from a destiny of a declining standard of living.


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