Eroding Shorelines Not A Problem Just On Beaches; Beware Of Dangers Inland As Rainy Season Approaches

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By: Stuart Fischer & Brian Fischer, Presidents of Lake and Wetland Management Special to the Boca and Delray newspapers

As the hurricane and rainy seasons approach, most condominium and homeowners associations are beginning preparations by making sure shutters are in working order, insurance policies are in place, and evacuation plans are distributed to residents.

And while we hope for a quiet “season,” there is one more issue that these residents should be aware of, that of eroding inland shorelines along lakes and golf courses. We continually hear about our eroding beaches, but rarely is there mention of similar dynamics affecting waterways miles from the ocean. Without proper maintenance, erosion can result in dangerous conditions for residents and golfers, ruin views, and cause legal problems for associations charged with overseeing these waterways.

While lakes in most Florida communities are beautiful, they were initially created as “retention” ponds, to control flooding during rainy season. Simply stated, when the rains come – and they will – the water flows into these lakes rather than building up and flooding homes and roads. This strategy has been extremely successful, but as water flows in and out of these lakes the shorelines fluctuate, causing significant erosion. You can notice this fluctuation during times of drought, when water levels are low, and then after a heavy rainfall. Without continual care, these enjoyable bodies of water can fall into disrepair, resulting in unsightly and potentially dangerous conditions.

What are some of the problems and dangers associated with eroding shorelines?

  • Erosion and fluctuating water levels de-stabilize the land. Unstable land can be hazardous – golfers walking along the shore could fall causing injury. Golf cart accidents are typical. In addition, these conditions are hazardous for landscapers and lake management firms since heavy equipment frequently roll over. Deaths and injuries have occurred.
  • Those living on lakefront properties frequently avoid taking advantage of their backyard amenity due to dangerous conditions.
  • Fluctuating water levels become a haven for burrowing animals (otters, fish,  iguanas) which also create these unstable shorelines.
  • Eroding shorelines leave drainage pipes, sprinkler systems, and electrical, cable and Internet lines exposed and subject to erosion and costly repairs.
  • It’s not unusual to see water actually encroaching on homes, threatening flooding.
  • Erosion is inevitable despite the best efforts of associations, municipalities, and golf course superintendents.

Fortunately, there are several strategies to control shoreline erosion. Some include installing sandbags, rocks, and trees. For the most part, these are band aids. One permanent and eco-friendly erosion-control technology is Shoresox and Dredgesox TM. It is an effective way to remove sediment from waterways and reclaim shorelines. The key advantage is that this innovative product allows us to use nature’s natural ability to stabilize the shoreline by planting and/or sodding directly through mesh armoring, establishing newly rooted vegetation. It is the most effective way to permanently halt erosion as well as following Best Management Practices. In layman’s terms, we are filling a huge sock with rich organic sediment and lining the shoreline with it. Once it is sodded and fully rooted, it becomes a permanent part of the shoreline and not susceptible to further erosion. This sod also provides a filtration system, preventing fertilizers from polluting the lakes. Many municipalities and states are turning to these “living shorelines” as opposed to building cement walls.

Once the shorelines are stabilized, associations should consider a variety of other initiatives that reflect a commitment to the environment that beautify properties. Some include:

  • Fountains and Aerators Aren’t Just For Looks: They are much more than ornamental features. They are an important part of creating a sound, healthy environment for fish since they aerate lakes, creating a healthy place for fish to multiply and thrive. In addition, fish are important as they can eliminate and control midge and mosquito population.  Part of maintaining a lake is stocking it with these types of fish. No different than placing a snail in a fish tank to clean surfaces. These efforts maintain a healthy ecological balance, resulting in healthy water, safe environment for wildlife, appropriate vegetation, and elimination of damaging algae.
  • Plantings For Aesthetics, Nutrient-controls, Wildlife, Shoreline Preservation:  It’s important to know that while some aquatic plants are beautiful, they may be harming the environment, and damaging the habitat for birds, fish, and other wildlife. It’s important to identify and remove these non-native exotic,invasive plants and replace them with Florida native aquatic plants that actually improve the environment and water quality. For example, appropriate plantings must provide nutrients for the water, thereby providing a healthy place for fish. They should attract wildlife seeking places for nesting and multiplying. And these plants must also offer a food source. Plantings are also important in preventing erosion along the shorelines.
  • Shoreline erosion is inevitable, given the violent nature of our rainy season. But with proper maintenance the dangers can be minimized and eliminated, allowing the lakes and canals to do their jobs as retention ponds and to provide scenic views and safe places for recreation.

Stuart Fischer and Brian Fischer are Presidents of Lake and Wetland Management, Inc. (www.lakeandwetland.com)   Founded in 1992, Lake and Wetland Management is a full service environmental resource management company. Its State-certified, trained biologists have been providing environmental services for waterways, wetland management, lake management and natural areas throughout Florida, leading the industry of environmental services.  The firm works closely with many government agencies, builders, developers, property managers and homeowner’s associations. Based in Delray Beach, Florida, Lake and Wetland Management has 14 offices throughout the state.