BY RODOLFO R. ROMAN
Special to The Miami Herald
Beachgoers in Bal Harbour and other areas are getting a first-hand look at efforts to beef up shorelines.
On Monday, one of many Caterpillar trucks tasked with hauling sand from Orlando to Miami-Dade dumped it’s cargo on Bal Harbour’s beach.
On hand to watch the unloading: Miami-Dade County Commissioner Sally Heyman, DERM officials and U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen — who took a playful roll in the piles of sand to celebrate.
The truckloads of sand began barreling into town last month. The first truckloads appeared in Sunny Isles Beach on May 20. Six days later they began dumping their haul at Bal Harbour and a stretch of Miami Beach near 65th Street, said Luis Espinoza, communications program manager for the Department of Environmental Resources Management.
”We saw the flooding that took place here in Miami Beach because of the rain,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “Just think if we were to have a severe storm blow here, all of the saltwater will be in the residential area.”
Approximately 30,000 cubic yards of sand is being placed at the northern end of Bal Harbour, DERM’s Brian Flynn said.
Beaches will remain open, except for the immediate areas where the crews are unloading sand.
The sand is being trucked in from Orlando to add height and width to beaches in Bal Harbour, Sunny Isles Beach and Miami Beach. State and county funds will be used for the truck-haul renourishment project, which will cost an estimated $10 million and expected to last six weeks.
The project will serve as a Band-Aid until a more extensive beach renourishment project begins in 2011.
Bal Harbour residents have long advocated for improvements to their beach, which has shrunk to small dunes in some places thanks to natural erosion and several active hurricane seasons.
”These beaches provide a buffer instead of the storm waves and surge coming in,” Flynn said.
About $13 million worth of property along the coast of Miami-Dade, east of Collins Avenue, could be at risk due to shrinking shorelines.
Ros-Lehtinen credited efforts for making the beach project a reality, including a lobbying campaign by members of the Bal Harbour Coalition.
”This is a real grass-roots movement,” Ros-Lehtinen said.
“It’s about people here on the ground putting their feet on the fire and saying we have a real emergency, and let’s try to mitigate this before it gets serious.”
Resident Brian Mulheren said the project was urgently needed, especially in an area that relies on its beachfront appeal to lure visitors.
”This project will create jobs and stimulate tourism,” Mulheren said. “We are getting it done. We need jobs here and at the same time we are preserving the beaches and environment.”