Restoring Florida’s Protective Sand Dunes

Have you ever taken a stroll along one of Florida’s beautiful beaches and wondered just how that soft, white, and perfect sand got there? Well, the answer might come as a surprise; the sand may have come from the middle of the State by way of tens of thousands of trucks. Many of Florida’s beaches have sands and constructed dunes that were designed by civil engineers and placed by hydraulically pumping from the ocean or transporting from inland mines, sometimes greater than 100 miles away.

The combination of rising sea-level, natural erosion, and impacts from 2016’s Hurricane Matthew created an urgent need for a dune restoration along a 4-mile stretch of NASA’s KSC shoreline. NASA’s shoreline did not sustain further significant damage from 2017’s Hurricane Irma, although it was devastating to other nearby areas including Cape Canaveral, where the beach has completely eroded away and the waves are now breaking against the protective dunes.

The team of Jones Edmunds and Applied Technology & Management (ATM) competed for and won the task assignment to design the new dune system that will protect several critical NASA assets including LC39A and LC39B, Cape Road, camera sites, and weather tracking equipment from the effects of past and future storms. Kim Rivera, PE, Project Manager for Jones Edmunds, spearheaded the task of identifying a sand source that meets the State sand quality standards, and led the design and permitting for the new 400,000-cubic-yard sand dune. The final constructed dune is designed to withstand the wave and surge associated with a 25-year storm.

In addition to the large scale engineering considerations, there were important environmental factors to consider. KSC is located on a nature preserve. Our design is sensitive to protecting surrounding species and habitats that occupy the beach including endangered beach mice, sea turtles, and gopher tortoises.