I recently had the opportunity to visit Port Aransas and its wonderful beaches after many years of absence. I was a student at UTMSI in 1960 and spent a year there in 1971-72 conducting research on the beaches. As a coastal researcher who has studied beaches and barrier islands for more than 40 years I am appalled at what is going on with the “management” of the Port A beaches. The concept of excavating from the dune complex and “nourishing” the active beach baffles me. It goes against all principles of coastal management.
Dunes must be left to grow naturally as rapidly and as large as they can. That is the best insurance policy that the community of Port Aransas can have and it costs nothing. By removing the sand from the front of the dunes two things happen that are very detrimental to the barrier island system. It prevents the establishment of a plant community that helps to stabilize the dunes and prohibits dune growth toward the Gulf shore which is what nature wants to happen. Equally important is the fact that this excavation presents a vertical “sea wall” of sand at the landward end of the beach. If a storm passes with even a modest storm surge (storm tide) this sand “sea wall” will erode very rapidly because it will receive the brunt of the energy of the swash and/or waves that impact it. If the sand was allowed to accumulate naturally it would provide a gradual slope across which the swash can pass without nearly as much erosion as the sand “sea wall”.
The obvious solution to this critical problem is simply to move the pilings that denote the parking areas toward the Gulf (or remove them altogether) and have the beach road located in front of the naturally accreting dunes. The artificial control on the location of the road is a terrible coastal management practice and should be stopped.