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Would it still be Miami Beach with foreign sand?

Miami Beach leaders are eyeing sand from foreign sources such as the Bahamas, as the domestic supply runs dry.

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Miami Beach is running out of sand.

Troublesome, because it's a community that draws its very life from the stuff.

The city and its famous strip, South Beach, thrive off the sunbathers who come from across the globe to spread their towels and lie upon the coarse granules laden with seashell – generating $4.2 billion annually from tourism. The sand also protects the community from the pounding waves of hurricanes.

For 30 years the city has replenished its beaches with sand from offshore sources, pumping it directly from the ocean floor. But these sources are thinning, and the process is complicated by three sensitive coral reefs that run parallel to the coastline. Consequently, local leaders must look elsewhere for sand.

Just taking the sand from elsewhere, they've learned, is not a neighborly thing to do. They sparked controversy last year when they sought sand offshore from St. Lucie County, some 120 miles up the East Coast. Residents there accused Miami Beach of plotting to rob them of sand.

So now they are eyeing sandy shores across the sea.

Miami Beach leaders are turning toward foreign sources such as the Bahamas. They've received offers from the Dominican Republic, the Turks and Caicos Islands, and Mexico. In the Dominican Republic, for example, a fish farm offered to sell Miami Beach sand from newly dug fish ponds.

But there's a problem: Federal law prevents Miami Beach from considering foreign sources until a domestic search is exhausted. So local leaders and the US Army Corps of Engineers have drafted a report summarizing their far-reaching effort. They hope for approval later this year to begin importing foreign sand, said Brian Flynn, an administrator in the Miami-Dade Department of Environmental Resources Management.

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