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Barrier Operations

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EcoProteccion Akumal ("EPA"), a Mexican non-profit, provides barrier operations on a “fee for service” basis to 29 beachfront lots that abut the sargassum High Impact Zone ("HIZ") of Half Moon Bay.  EPA handles seasonal installation of the HMB Sargassum Barrier and, when storms are forecast, provides emergency removal services.  Most importantly, EPA is charged with keeping the barrier configured, situated and repaired so that it always performs at top efficiency in deflecting about two thirds (⅔) of incoming sargassum away from the HIZ.

As detailed below, EPA's Annual Operating Budget is projected at MX $1,600,000 pesos per year (just under USD $90,000/year).  The fees EPA assesses to cover this projected expense are explained on the Operations Funding page.  

In 2023, the barrier went through extensive "In-Situ" testing to determine the optimal configuration for deflecting incoming sargassum away from the bay.  The testing began more than 3 months after the start of the 2023 Sargassum Season (after mounds of rotting sargassum had already built up along the entire HIZ) so there was no practical way to determine what might have happened had the barrier been installed in January.  As shown in these photos and videos, however, as soon as EPA figured out the optimal barrier configuration, our OKEANIS brand barrier did a terrific job of deflecting NEW incoming sargassum away from the bay.  

The HMB Sargassum Project is confident that, in 2024 (and beyond), the barrier will be a critically important element in our goal to make Half Moon Bay a "Sargassum Free Zone".  Of course, to reach this goal the barrier must be installed BEFORE the start of each Sargassum Season....which, in 2024, could begin as soon as January.  In other words, before January 2024, EPA must garner firm commitments to pay for barrier operating expenses from at least 15 of the lots that benefit when sargassum is deflected away from the HIZ. 

To calculate the full cost of making Half Moon Bay a “Sargassum Free Zone”, property owners along the HIZ must combine barrier operating expenses with the cost of disposing of any “Residual Sargassum” that gets past the barrier.  EPA recommends Best Practices for Beach Cleaning but does not directly manage cleanup of this “Residual Sargassum” because a government agency called “ZOFEMAT” is legally responsible for maintaining all beaches in the federal zone.  Unfortunately, ZOFEMAT lacks the financial resources to meet their obligations (even though they do impose a “concession fee” on all beachfront property owners who use the federal zone beach).  And ZOFEMAT’s absence leaves the 29 property owners along the HIZ with two choices:  

 

  1. Step up, themselves, to follow these guidelines in cleaning the public beach in front of their property or....
     

  2. Sit back & watch as excess sargassum brings these many toxic harms to our reefs, our beaches and our local economy. 

 

The HMB Sargassum Project was founded to empower beachfront property owners to choose Option One.   By using a barrier to significantly reduce the amount of sargassum that enters the bay, the HMB Sargassum Project can significantly reduce the cost beachfront owners will incur in disposing of any “Residual Sargassum” that accumulates in the federal zone directly in front of their lot.  

 

In years past, we've seen as much as 20 cubic meters of sargassum per week pile up on the public beach.  With a barrier in place, we project these quantities will drop by about 70%.  Using a sargassum disposal expense (in pesos) of MX $300 to $500 pesos per cubic meter, we estimate that most lots will now need to budget between USD $4,000 to $5000 per year for beach cleaning (a monthly expense of USD $300 to $400.)  In other words, from the property owners’ viewpoint, the cost of making Half Moon Bay a Sargassum Free Zone can be budgeted at approximately USD $680/month ($8,200/year); an expense that covers barrier operations PLUS disposal of “Residual Sargassum”.  For properties that are jointly owned by a consortium of 6 or more condo owners, this monthly expense can be further broken down to a cost of around USD $120/month, depending on the number of condos.  (See NOTE 2 below for additional beach cleaning options)

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NOTE 1:  Barrier Operations Budget
As detailed in the last column of this spreadsheet, EPA's Projected Annual Operating Costs come to
MX $1,600,000 pesos per year (just under USD $90,000/year) and include the activities summarized here (and detailed in EPA's Daily Activity Log):

 

- Monitoring barrier infrastructure using

- daily over head drone flights

- reconnaissance from boats, and
- weekly dive teams equipped with Go Pros.

- Reporting of data on sargassum deflection, leakage and breaching (Click here to see photos)

- Configuration adjustments with winches & pulleys

- In-situ equipment repair or replacement

- Removal and replacement of parts that require repair on land

- Partial release of moorings to accommodate rough weather conditions

- Total removal of mesh-netting and buoys when weather forecasts
  predict Category 3 (or greater) hurricane force winds on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale.

NOTE 2:  Beach Cleaning Costs
It’s clear that our community could achieve significant economies of scale by hiring a single service provider to clean the entire Half Moon Bay beach at a reduced cost of about MX $250 pesos per cubic meter.  The HMB Sargassum Project is exploring whether there is community support for a more coordinated beach cleaning operation in 2024. 

 

Although details of this plan are still being hashed out, initial projections indicate that a single outside service provider could keep the entire beach clean by working from 6:00 to 11:00am each morning for a cost in US dollars of about $4,000 to $5,000 per lot for the entire 2024 Sargassum Season.  This annual expense could then be broken down to a monthly cost of only $300 to $400 per lot.  More detail on this proposal will be communicated to all HIZ property owners in early 2024.

 

NOTE 3:  About EPA
EPA was constituted as a non-profit civil association in the state of Quintana Roo, MX on December 1, 2022.  This non-profit status means EPA is not required to assess sales tax (or "I.V.A.") on invoices.  The officers and staff of EPA are listed below and can all be reached via email at <ecoproteccionakumal@gmail.com>.

President, Alex Malison                Vice President, Marieke Brown               Treasurer, Peter Swenson

<hmbsargassumproject@gmail.com>          <marieke@buyplaya.com>                                        <swensonpeter0@gmail.com>

Project Manager, Ivan Penie         Equipment Manager, Carlos Navarro      Administrator, Lisa Wilson

<ecoproteccionAkumal@gmail.com>          <akumalnorte@gmail.com>                                       <lisagwilson@gmail.com>

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