Sand a hot commodity in wake of storms, widespread erosion

Piles of sand are all that remain where the Belmar N.J. boardwalk used to stand, in a Nov. 15, 2012 photo. Superstorm Sandy took a bite out of the Jersey shore, washing away millions of tons of sand and slimming down beaches along the state's 127-mile coastline. AP Photo/Wayne Parry

(CBS News) One month ago, superstorm Sandy slammed into the East Coast. It killed at least 125 Americans, and caused at least $62 billion in damage. Sandy also destroyed 100 miles of shoreline. Fixing those beaches will require a lot of sand, which is becoming harder to find on the U.S. East Coast -- and the West.

Jefferson Wagner has surfed the waters off Malibu, Calif., since the 1960s and is the town's former mayor. He said, "The ocean is going to come back and claim its territory no matter what you do."

Wagner took CBS News to Malibu's Broad Beach, which no longer lives up to its name. Now, low tide is the only time you can find a sliver of sand to sit on. The public beach is being battered by increasingly strong storms and rising sea levels, threatening multimillion-dollar homes. Those same homes are blocking the natural replenishment of sand from the canyons above. So with every wave and every tide, the beach is being erased.

Much of Broad Beach's sand ended up at Zuma Beach about a mile down the coast. This beach is owned by Los Angeles County, and it doesn't plan to give the sand back.

Broad Beach has deep pockets. It's been home to Hollywood's elite: Stephen Spielberg, Pierce Brosnan, Dustin Hoffman and Sylvester Stallone. A year ago, homeowners built a two-mile-long rock wall to protect their property. Now they've taxed themselves an estimated $20 million, so they can go shopping for sand. They tried Manhattan Beach 35 miles down the coast where they planned to dredge offshore. After all, back in the 1920s Manhattan Beach sent its sand west to build Hawaii's Waikiki Beach. But this time, the town's mayor drew a line, yes, in the sand.

Manhattan Beach Mayor Wayne Powell said, "Malibu tried to steal our sand and all the money in Malibu cannot buy Manhattan Beach sand. They could go to the desert and get plenty of sand there."

There are likely willing sellers out in the Mojave Desert, but it would take about 60,000 truck loads to bring in the 600,000 cubic yards of sand Broad Beach needs.

Sand is now a hot commodity on the East Coast. Hurricane Sandy washed away entire beaches along the New Jersey and New York shorelines. After the storm, CBS News saw the damage firsthand on New Jersey's Long Beach Island. When Hurricane Sandy hit Long Beach Island, the storm plowed through sand dunes and the beach, not only destroying houses, but filling almost all of the streets with mountains of sand. Some of that sand will be used to restore beaches and dunes, but there is now a debate as to how much of the shoreline can or should be rebuilt. It's estimated to cost $8 million per mile. Meanwhile, sea levels are expected to rise and storms intensify as the climate changes and further erodes the country's coasts.

Wagner said on the West Coast, "We're seeing it here. There's no denying it any longer."

Wagner says there's a reason even Broad Beach money can't buy a solution to its sand problem. "It's finally starting to sink in that it's not going to be an easy task," he said. "Nobody is willing to give up this asset. This is why people come to the beach."

Comments

Follow Us

The Newsroom