An interview with Bob Finnegan, head of the recently formed Federal Coastal, Tidal and Estuarial Sediment and Natural Mineral Resources Reclamation Department:
We actually started as a joint task force between the Department of the Interior, the EPA, and NOAA, but when we really wrapped our arms around the magnitude of the problem, it was obvious that a new federal department would be necessary. That’s how the FCTESNMRRD was born. We saw an obvious need for a solution when we did our initial study visits to coastal towns and confirmed our suspicions. We witnessed first-hand how much of our nation's precious coastal mineral natural resources were ending up on citizens' driveways and front walks near their garden hoses.
The problem stems from lack of education, and carelessness. Citizens will routinely leave the beach or riverbank with ounces and ounces of sand attached to their legs and swimsuits, and then wash it off at home onto the ground, and just leave it there! We couldn’t believe what we were seeing. We did some simple math and determined that if this reckless behavior on the part of our citizens was allowed to continue unabated, two-thirds of our nation’s beaches would disappear in less than five years. This was a crisis of epic proportion.
It was obvious that we as the federal government needed to set forth some very stringent guidelines. Our newly-formed department has tackled this issue with a three-pronged approach. Home-use sand reclamation tubs, centralized sand reclamation centers, and educational programs.
We are in the process of outfitting every household within five miles of any one of our great country's coasts or waterways with a federally approved sand reclamation wash and collection tub. The tubs employ an easy sixteen-step process to collect, strain, and dry the sand, which takes less than an hour per beachgoer. The filters are useable only once to prevent cross beach contamination, but they are readily available for purchase at any federal sand reclamation station and all Ace Hardware locations for only $24.95 each. The tub manufacturing and distribution has been a real challenge, but we were able to keep costs low on the hundreds of millions of tubs needed by having them made in China and distributed by a logistics company from Norway. If you live near the water, you should be getting yours any day!
The sand reclamation stations are the most vital link in the chain. We need the stations to be conveniently located, since we can't just have citizens trying to return their reclaimed sand to the beach themselves. That would obviously be a disaster! Ordinary, untrained people cannot be trusted to make sure their reclaimed sand gets back to the same beach it came from. Inter-beach mineral cross-contamination is one of our greatest fears. No one wants to think about the potentially catastrophic ecological ramifications of getting sand from two entirely different beaches mixed up.
That is precisely why we have 40,000+ sand reclamation stations nationwide, with more being brought online every day. Depending on the size of the coastal community, each station employs between 100 and 300 new government employees, so you can see the obvious upside for the economy as a whole.
We employ quite a few scientists and chemists to take care of the typing and cross-matching of the sand as it is reclaimed. We actually got a lot of guys from NASA! We spent five years and 400 billion dollars on the front end of this project collecting and cataloging sand and sediment samples at 500-foot intervals along the coastlines and waterways of the entire country. That way, when we receive sand from a citizen, we can make sure to match it to the exact location that it was stolen – sorry… accidentally removed - from.
The scientific equipment and machinery required for this is amazing. We have to sort and identify each individual grain, since careless citizens will often ignore the guidelines and wash sand from two or more different beach outings into the same tub, instead of bringing the reclaimed sand to a collection station after each beach visit. That brings us to the third prong in our approach; Education.
We have a budget of nearly 700 billion dollars for sand and sediment education for the general public. We need to make every person in the entire country aware of this growing sand removal problem and the steps they can take to help. We are boldly tackling everything from proper use of the collection tubs and filters, to collection station rules and regulations, to proper sunscreen and child management practices to avoid sand removal in the first place.
We have even developed a fun mascot for the kids: Sandy the Gender-Neutral Sand Crab, who gets crabby when sand leaves his or her beach. He or she is the cornerstone of our youth outreach programs. We are also preparing to launch our nationwide elementary school curriculum integration project, to make sure proper sand management is learned at a young age.
For the adults, we have a massive project underway to place signs at 200-yard intervals along all of our nation’s waterways and coastlines, prominently displaying the 137 new federal rules and regulations regarding proper sand and sediment management. In order to have a readable font size, the signs ended up being 10 feet tall, and 30 feet long, so we are using cranes and pile drivers to set them in place. While occasionally blocking some established beach-front home’s views, the signs should end up providing some amount of shade for beachgoers, and some new seagull habitat, so we consider it a net positive. We also printed up a bunch of flyers.
The main focus of all our educational programs is, of course, having fun using our nation’s beaches and waterways, but in a sand-responsible manner.
All told, the FCTESNMRRD is off to a great start. The work at the collection stations is slower than we had originally anticipated, but we are making great improvements every day. So far, we have collected, properly identified, and returned over seventeen ounces of sand to its rightful home on the beach. That is just a great feeling for all of us, knowing that all our hard work and all those tax dollars are doing so much good!
See you soon,
Copyright © 2011 Marc Schmatjen
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