By Leo Coughlin
It's amazing, given what is at stake, that there would be any notion at all of destroying the economy of Pinellas County and, in fact, the whole west coast of Florida as well as the north coast.
Yet there is debate about factors that could do exactly that. And that sort of debate is toying with fate. Bringing up the unarguable. Playing Russian roulette with five bullets in the cylinder.
Talking here about off-shore oil drilling and lack of sand for the beaches. Two distinct subjects that have enormous meaning for Pinellas County.
As to the drilling, there was a recent poll that reported a majority in the state favor the drilling, for reasons of collecting money. The proponents are those who live far from the beaches and their views should not weigh as heavily as those who live near and live off the beaches.
Let there be oil derricks a few miles off these shores and ditto with the stretch from Pensacola to Panama City and you can kiss all the snowbirds, tourists, other visitors and much of the population adieu.
And with them go the dollars. And the economy. And the whole shooting mess.
But what you would take to be sensible folks debate this. And why? Because pumping oil out of the Gulf means money. Contrary to any argument you might have heard that it will help solve energy problems, it would be no help at all.
The other crucial factor is the sand on the very beaches this county makes its living off. If Pinellas County did not have those beaches do you think folks from all over the eastern U.S. and Europe would come here?
Oil spills would destroy the beaches. That's so obvious one feels a little silly writing it down in those words.
And then there is the other factor - the sand itself.
The nature of a barrier island is to erode. Most of Pinellas County that fronts on the Gulf is a barrier island.
Say "Sand Key," and most people think of that area from Clearwater Pass to the city line with Belleair Beach. True, but only partly true.
Sand Key geographically extends from Clearwater Pass to John's Pass and it is in that lengthy span that the bulk of Pinellas's beaches lie.
Erosion, the movement of tidal and active water against land, particularly sand, makes the sand disappear. It is dragged out into the ocean itself or pulled along to somewhere else.
To replace this loss of sand, the hicockalorums came up with the non-word "renourishment." I say "non-word" because the word does not appear in any dictionary I have checked and I have at hand and just checked Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (10th ed.) and the Oxford Dictionary and Thesaurus (by the way, I have never used a thesaurus in my life and for years thought it was some kind of extinct creature, you know, like dinosaur).
Even if the made up word were signifying the revivification of nourish, it would be off base. Nourish means to feed, to sustain with nutriment.
Replacing sand on the beaches is to renew or replenish.
Ah, yes, there it is - replenish. Replenishment is the word that has come off this keyboard for years in reference to the replacing of sand on the beaches.
But no one has picked up on that correctness and precision. Pity. But then, think about it - these are the same people, the authorities, who are having a problem with the subject to begin with.
It seems that the worry is over whether the county has sufficient knowledge in coastal engineering to once again dredge sand from one place under water and deposit on shore along the whole coast.
And why does it not have this knowledge?
Because those geniuses in the County Building in Clearwater got rid of the one person who was an expert on the subject - Nicole Elko.
Her job was coastal management and it was eliminated as a budget cutting move. This demonstrates the depth of intelligence with the top management of this county. I would say it is sadly lacking.
On top of that, Bob LaSala, the county administrator, fired Elko in September because she was doing consulting work for some communities while working full time for the county.
So, if you're wondering why things are in such bad shape, consider the debates on these crucial subjects upon which the future of this county depends.
And consider the reason for the debates. In the debates one side would have to argue "I am in favor of putting the beaches at risk with an oil spill" in one case and "I am in favor of having all the sand disappear" in the other case.
Puck had it right - "Lord, what fools these mortals be!"
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