Byron Shire Council Starts Sand Scraping to Save Main Beach
During the last three years, the sand situation at Byron Bay has been a feast or famine. As an abundance of sand backs up at The Pass, Clarkes and Main Beach erode back to the buildings - see here, here, and here. With sand slowly accreting at Main Beach, and a repreive from the easterly onslaught, Byron Shire Council are trying to speed the process up.
Tonnes of sand have eroded from an area between Clarkes Beach and the Byron Bay Surf Lifesaving Club in recent years. Byron Shire Council is hoping a sand-scraping operation will help to restore sand at Main Beach.
The council's coast and biodiversity co-ordinator Chloe Dowsett estimated more than thirty metres of the dunal system has disappeared.
"It's really clear when you look at aerial photography back over the years how much dune has been lost," she said. "Significantly, near the surf club, there's really only one strand of the last kind of defence of the dune."
Excavators and bulldozers began work on the beach yesterday as part of a five-day, $170,000 operation, which Ms Dowsett described as "helping Mother Nature".
"The sand from the swash zone will be moved onto the beach and then the beach berm (ridge) will be built, which is that fluffy sand that people find quite difficult to walk on," she said.
"Then that sand is slowly moved on to the back of the beach to build those dunes. Once that sand is moved up there, we focus on the ground cover and the spinifex, that really acts as a sand-trapping mechanism."
Locals welcome 'overdue' work
Life member of the Byron Bay Surf Lifesaving Club, Greg Clark, described the move as "long overdue".
"It's marvellous to see and I'm really excited to see council getting on with this project," he said. "Our beach is still our best asset, everyone comes to Byron Bay to go to the beach.
"For two years there we were unable to even set up a patrol on the beach, we were patrolling from a grassed area rather than down on the sand. At least with a little bit of this restoration work, if we do get some big seas, it should put us in better stead anyway."
Turtle nesting concerns
A former general manager of the wildlife group Australian Seabird Rescue, Rochelle Ferris, raised concerns about the potential for nesting sea turtles in the area.
"This time of year is sea turtle nesting season, they're a threatened species and this is a marine park we're talking about," she said. "We've got confirmed evidence of sea turtle nesting tracks right along that beach.
"They're trying to use that space for nesting and the more interruption and interference there is, human-induced worst of all, is only going to reduce their chances of successful reproduction."
But Ms Dowsett said the council had obtained a marine park permit for the work and considered sea turtles as part of a review of environmental factors.
"We'd like to get the works done before mid-December," she said. "Once the turtles are actually moving down the coast and hit the Tweed Shire we get a bit of a heads up as to when they might be in this location.
"If we do see any tracks in the morning we will be doing a beach walk prior to any of the beach work, and that goes for turtles and any of the shore birds."
In the end, the success of the project may depend on factors beyond the council's control.
"There is always a kind of risk that the work we do may get swept away, but that's just coastal management in general really," Ms Dowsett said.
// BRUCE MACKENZIE
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