Major construction project starts on Upham Beach

Yellow sand tubes being replaced with rocks
Posted at 5:52 PM, Aug 01, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-01 17:52:18-04

Planning a visit to Upham Beach? You can expect a lot of construction on the popular beach on the North end of St. Pete Beach from now until the end of February. 

Half of the beach will remain open as crews work on a multi-million dollar project to save Upham Beach from severe erosion. 

After 12 years, the huge, iconic yellow sand bags are finally coming out. The five geo textile tubes will be replaced with 4 rock t-groin structures which will better protect the sand at Upham Beach from washing away. 

Beach visitors Christine Griffo and Gail Leake couldn’t be happier!

“You walk into the water looking at all this beautiful water, you look to the right and you’re like 'Ugh. That's one ugly yellow sand bag!',” explained Griffo.

“They are really ugly. They remind me of bomb shelters,” added Leake.

The gigantic yellow sand bags may not be pretty, but they’re working like a charm to protect one of the fastest eroding beaches in Florida, or at least they were until someone slashed open several of the sand tubes. "Someone slashed at least one, but it appears to be several of the yellow geo-textile groins. Plus they are worn down and it's time to replace them with something more permanent," explained John Bishop of Pinellas Counties Coastal Management team.

Now, Upham Beach is getting something even better: limestone rocks.

“In the long run this will definitely save us some money,” Bishop explained.

The price tag for replacing the yellow sand tubes with large rocks is 9.5 million dollars, but the new rock structures will eventually pay for themselves by saving taxpayers 2 million bucks every beach nourishment.

Leake is happy to hear the beach that convinced her to move to Florida will be getting more long-term protection, “I told my kids when I turn 70 I’m going to be on the beach in Florida. I plan to be here a long time and I want these beaches to be beautiful while I’m here.”

Replacing the big yellow sand tubes won’t be easy. Crews will work from the South end of the beach North over the next 6 months, and they'll be keeping only about half the beach open. More sections of the beach could potentially be closed for short periods as a safety precaution, depending on construction activity. 

The project will be paid for using tourist development tax funds dedicated to beach nourishment, with 50-percent of the total cost to be reimbursed from a state grant.