Tiny sea oats help Hollywood, Fla., shoreline resist erosion

Beach erosion is the top concern for seaside residents, but as the shoreline dwindles, citizens cry for help and politicians fight for money, it's the winsome sea oat that is saving the day.

''If I didn't see it with my own eyes, I might not believe it,'' said Lee Gottlieb, a condo owner at Renaissance on the Ocean in Hollywood. "But here it is, in front of our faces -- the simplest and most proven solution.''

The towering building once called a ''monstrosity on the beach'' has become the beach's best friend, said Gottlieb, the eco-action program manager for Kids Ecology Corps in Broward.

Last year, the condo community spent $35,000 to plant sea oats along a 300-foot swath of land 10 feet from the condo's edge.

This, after residents watched helplessly as precious beach sand disappeared following a $50 million renourishment project in 2005. The tons of new sand, from Hollywood to Hallandale Beach, took a major hit during Hurricane Katrina.

Now, the salt-friendly sea oats stabilize sandy soil with their long root system while the plant's tall, lean blades stop sand from blowing inland.

The sand, stopped in flight, falls and builds the dune that protects the beach against strong waves and heavy wind.

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