Sunday, June 27, 2010

Beach Erosion: Chelem

 Here is a shot of the beach at Progreso.  It is a wide stretch of white soft and silky sand.  This is a good example of a beach that is NOT showing erosion rapidly.

There is plenty of beach erosion along the Yucatán Coast, especially along the northern Gulf Coast...including Cancún.  Some areas are eroding much faster than others.  From what I have seen, Progreso still has nice wide beaches along its malecón and beyond.  East of Progreso, around Chixculub there may be sections of eroding beach, but it too is a beautiful wide white sand beach.  Farther east toward Telchac Puerto the erosion is more evident, and maybe I can find some of the photos I took there in 2007 showing how close to the water the houses and restaurants are now located.  

East of Progreso there is an area with wide sandy beaches thanks to the protection of the 7 km. long pier in Progreso.  It acts as a protector for the area to its west, I guess that would be Yucalpetén and Chuburná.

But once you go west of Progreso to Chelem and Sisal, the beach erosion is just plain scary.  When I came down here in early 2007 and gave consideration to living at the beach, I cruised through these communities.  When I saw the water lines noticeable on the houses at about a meter's height, houses three or more blocks back from the beach, this thought ran through my head:  Sure I would love to live at the beach. And I know I'm crazy but I am not insane. To buy a house here, in my opinion, would be insane. 

The area was hard hit by a few hurricanes that rolled through the Yucatán this millenium. Much of the erosion was not gradual, but the effects of strong winds and currents.  I do believe the sea level is rising, and I also believe that we are going to have a wild hurricane season this year.  I think one of the things that makes me unfairly critical here is my experience working with the Federal Disaster Cadre after floods and hurricanes. Most people who had lost everything had built their homes in a flood plain.  In the Yucatán the damages will be greatest along the beaches where the water is already splashing up over their porches in times of high tide.  
I am NOT a believer in dredging sand and replenishing eroding beaches. It is part of how the earth is constantly changing.  Bring in more sand and Mother Nature will eventually take it back to where she wanted it to be in the first place.  Man can't solve all problems. We cannot plug up active volcanos, and we cannot stop beach erosion or Ma Nature from making her natural changes.  Whether we can send a nuclear bomb down into the Gulf to stop the oil spill, well, that is beyond my comprehension and I hope that was just a horrible rumor I heard. I live near the Gulf!

Unfortunately this attitude of mine immediately alienated me from the beach population, because I see them as bargain hunters that didn't do their homework.  The expat population of these communities comprise quite a variety of folks, mostly looking for an inexpensive way to live out their dream of having a house on the beach in the tropics.  There is a nickname for the residents of Chelém, but it is really not very nice and I am going to admit to knowing it, possibly agreeing with it, but I won't print it here. Who knows, I may end up around there one of these days too, looking for a cheaper way to survive. None of us on this side of the Yucatán either have the money to own a piece of the land on the Caribbean side, or are of that special mindset of the Riviera Maya inhabitants.  I will say that for me the difference in the Gulf folks and the Caribbean folks is this:  The Gulf people, looking for a cheaper and simpler life are more REAL and the Caribbean people with the big dough are the DIG ME crowd.  I'd rather suck up some beers and tell tales with some real people than to dress up and try to impress the dig me crowd over appletinis.

Believe it or not, I have nothing against the folks who live on these beaches.  I tend to live a LIVE FOR TODAY life and in retrospect, so what if living on the beach causes constant challenges? My house in Mérida is like having bought a always needs something.  And if on the beach, if it means you have to move back...well? 

Of course I ramble, but that is today's post.  I was really shocked at some of these beach home sights.  It made me think about how strong nature is, and how we really need to respect what we have left of our planet.

Chelem beach, the gulf is creeping up to the steps of the houses. 

 Or it has already passedthat and has entered the house.
 Maybe the house has to be moved back, and built up.

 So is it the earth just falling off in chunks or what?

These are the seashells we collected walking along the Chelem beach.  Note the remnants of floor tiles. (The batfruit seed fell into my display later while my collection sat in the patio.)  All the beaches on the northwest and west Yucatán shores are loaded with seashells.  Chelem is the first place that most of them were portions of house tiles.

 A rant is not a rant without the kicker.  Cancún beach erosion.  For those who don't know, Cancún was a small pueblo on the northern end of the peninsula.  There were mangroves along the Caribbean side, just mush and marsh land.  Dry jungle we call it.  Back in the 80's they brought in what was then millions of dollars of sand to fill in the mangrove and make attractive beaches for tourists.  Then they built huge hotels on the spits that are the land bits among the mangrove surroundings.  I am not sure how many times the government has had to replenish the sand to maintain Cancún as one of the best beaches anywhere!  This year it was 2billion USDollars worth of sand.  Tourism must go on. (Even if the majority of the country's population lives in dire poverty)  And so will the hurricane season, predicted to be the worst one in recent history. Let's see who ends up with 2billion dollars worth of super sand.


Nancy said...

Very interesting, Linda. I love learning about the area. I guess most of those homeowners hope they have a long narrow lot so they can move back if they need to.

I don't know anything about how the sand gets moved here and there, but here in Mazatlan the beach at Olas Altas moves north or south depending on the time of year. It is interesting to watch it change.

Merida Mikey said...

I recall some very nice beaches in the Chelem area, 20 years ago! You are correct in your summation of beach erosion activity there. It is heartbreaking to see those nice beaches reclaimed by Mother Nature, and one has to wonder when and where it will stop! Houses that were once in the "privately owned zone", are now in the Federal Zone due to the erosion problems there.

Linda Dorton said...

Nancy, thanks. Newer homeowners have long lots, especially because of the new Federal Zone Mikey mentions below your comment. Some of those houses look like they took a beating and are just waiting for another one. Luckily, knock on wood, it won't be TS Alex!

Anonymous said...

Well, if the ice caps do melt as predicted, Merida could eventually be a beach town, as the elevation presently is a mere 10 meters. Then the scuba crowd could dive on the underwater homes in Progresso! (It may not be long, kids.)


Linda Dorton said...

Anonymous Eric,
That is kind of a funny thought, isn't it? I am picturing salvage diving right now in the underwater houses.....and maybe I should fill my patio with sand, and be beach ready!

Oh, not to worry about Chelem. They brought in a million dollars worth of sand! That should take care of it!

Nothing like filling in the missing sand so that one of the predicted 18 tropical storms we expect this year can just take it somewhere else.

Anonymous said...

Hi neighbor! I found this old post because I'm researching the comment that I heard that the way the 7k long pier was built (not environmentally friendly) led to the beach erosion discussed in the article. I don't think its all mother nature in this case, more likely manmade....still looking for info...but in that case then if people try to shore up their homes with artificial solutions, it makes sense: man fights man's own folly....

Linda Dorton said...

Hi Anonymous Neighbor
In retrospect, I would have to say those were my emotions speaking back in 2007. You are correct, I have since learned, that the pier in Progreso IS the culprit in the rapid beach erosion of Chelem. I would be very interested to hear of the information you learn about this situation in your studies.

I must admit I haven't spent any time in Chelem, but I've since met people who live there and are perfectly happy. And they are really nice people.

Plus I can no longer use my lame excuse that I am crazy but not insane. I am in fact insane because we have purchased our own stretch of beach south of Tulum, north of Majahual, near the biosphere of Sian Ka'an. More specifically, the area that took a direct hit from our last serious hurricane Dean in '07. I would LOVE to live on the beach, dangers and all. It is a much more relaxing lifestyle, more simple, and in many cases healthier. However it is dangerous when those storms evolve and head right toward our shores. It's the price you pay to have a piece of the rock(or beach), in a most desirable location, waking up to beautiful sunsets and living on fresh fish. Problem for me is, I need internet. Our beach palapa will have to be a respite place for us.

Thanks for the comment. It made me go back and see how much anger I was holding inside when I got here. It took a long time, but I am over it and back to my more open minded adventurer side! Long live life on the beach! If it erodes, fine, at least we can enjoy it when we're here!

Anonymous said...

tear down the God dam pier, the govt here is a joke put a fake reef off the shore along the coast of Chelem and Chuburna .it would cost a 1/3 of what they are doing and save the homes that are going in the water. Electric problems constantly, getting ripped off for the electric bill no internet that's good and cell phone coverage that is like talking in a tin can when it works. The Mex govt don't care about there own people why would they care about other nationalities bringing in more money for the country. Fix the damn beach, you created the problem fix it

Anonymous said...

dI have seen first hand all the sand they dumped in Chelem is now destroying the Chuburna beaches and it has only been a short time. I truly cannot believe how ignorant the Mex govt is . I have lived here since 2005 and its still a real 3rd world country. Get it together Mexico, there are other places taking over your so called paradise

Anonymous said...

its amazing that all Mexican govt web sites that address the chelem , chuburna beacah erosions problems do not work . I am pissed . But then again its truly a 3rd world country without technology . But one of the richest man in the world owns a cell phone company that sucks for service. As always its Mexico fix the beach if you can figure out how to read all the world studies that have told you how to. Oh that would actually take action. Keep bring in sand, idiots

Anonymous said...

by the way , my federal tax for the govt beach I am supposed to pay, I think I will keep for beer money

Anonymous said...

I do have one more thing to say, the police check point coming from Chabihau to progreso, The idiots cops like to try and take money from the gringos. I was stopped, the jerk came over and asked if I was Americano I said yes, he paused waited , seen my camera, brief case etc , then said you have dinero I said yes but not for you. I speak fluent Spanish and screamed at him stop ripping people off that is not Mexican . He walked away, I drove off

Anonymous said...

Ok one more thought, The boarder fence America put up, I thought it was to keep the Mexican from entering, then I thought it was to keep the American from leaving, but now I am wondering is it to keep the American that left from coming back, confused .Don't worry about it America there is so many better places to live then there. By the way how is the govt doing, and the dictators new Obamacare working? Remember a lot of you are up for reelection so don't do anything

Linda Dorton said...

Dear Anonymous,
I can understand your frustrations. I think you have a good idea about creating an artificial reef. That would be of some help. It's amazing how fast life clings to artificial reef and it becomes a protector. I imagine you are venting here, and I can see where you are coming from. It is frustrating. You have been here a long time and now it seems we are not the welcomed friendly neighbors, it seems we are the mean aliens. Sometimes I wonder if the Mexican govt has changed things to spite the US govt immigration ideas and policies. I wish 'they' would stop messing with mother nature - the 7 mile dock, bringing in sand never works, sand are right, the govt needs some new environmental engineers. Hang in there. I hope Mexico doesn't drive away the people interested in moving down here.

paul lawrence said...

I see all of these posts were written a few years ago, hopefully the writers will have looked at my comments about esplonones (jetty's) & how they are working when installed correctly & maintained. Any home on the beach with such a jetty up to 35 metres west of them will have a good beach in front of their home, if people don't maintain their jetty they deserve to lose their beach & eventually their home. This is all part & parcel of beach living & I for one am sick of having to discontinue my beach walk because I can't go any further. Stiffbrit

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