By Larry Newsom
On October 7, 2016, the City of Flagler Beach was deeply impacted by Hurricane Matthew, a Category 3 storm. We sustained severe damage, mostly to our coastline infrastructure, including our iconic Pier, the 52 dune crossovers used by the public to access the beach, and of course, the “shark bites” that ripped 1.3 miles of State Road A1A.
From my experience with similar storm events such as Hurricanes Katrina, Ivan, and Dennis, and as the County Administrator for Escambia County (Pensacola) during the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, I’ve learned it takes a lot of time to recover. Local agencies have to deal with these events in administrative phases. The primary goal is to reestablish for our citizen tax payers the quality of life they were accustomed to prior to the event. First and foremost is to return all citizens to their homes, issue permits to make repairs, and remove the debris. We are there!
Now city staff must work with Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) staff to ensure we recover as much revenue as possible spent by the City to deal with the hurricane’s aftermath. This is very time consuming, but will be complete within the next 12 months. Her’s a status report.
Debris Pick-Up: Here is the Funding Process for the debris pickup: FEMA reimburses 75 percent of the cost (85 percent for debris picked up in the first 30 days). The state reimburses 12 percent, local government pays 12.5 percent. (The Volunteer work for beach clean-up activities can be used by the city “in kind” to offset cost).
The Pier: I know the existing pier looks sound, but a structural engineering report prepared within days following the storm identified major issues underneath, deeming the structure unsafe. Sorry, no access at this time. However, my staff has been working with engineering consultants to implement temporary repairs to the pier you see today in order to restore access for the public and to ensure no further loss to the structure, beyond the missing 160 feet. I am expecting an engineering bid package to repair the existing structure in the near future and look to open the pier before summer approaches. This will be funded by FEMA at 75 percent, plus insurance.
In late January or early February, I will be holding a workshop, open to the public, to discuss city preferences on the design of a new, more permanent pier. My goal is for Flagler Beach to have the longest pier on Florida’s east coast. I understand the pier and beach are our gems. I must work with FEMA to determine what federal funds will be allocated for the reconstruction. I anticipate the full rebuild to occur next year.
Dune Crossovers: Our dune crossovers offer safe access to the beach. There are 52 dune crossovers between Beverly Beach and the Flagler-Volusia County line for which the city is responsible. City staff and I have received numerous phone calls inquiring about why this or that particular crossover has not opened, or “When will this access be open?”
My immediate goal after the event was to quickly open all dune crossovers requiring minimal repairs, and we did that. Now my staff is reviewing each access point to see if additional crossovers can be temporarily repaired and made accessible. Our chief building official reviewed the construction of the crossovers and notes that most will require additional modifications to ensure we meet current Building Code standards. That also applies to the crossovers open now.
I do expect FEMA assistance on this as well. Keep in mind the storm event may result in the City receiving funding to make improvements that typically would not be affordable. I have procured an engineering firm that works with Disney on boardwalks to make sure we get the best results as a final product. It may take a year to have all dune crossovers rebuilt, but I am dedicated to get as many open as possible as we work through the process. Any beach access deemed unsafe or a total loss will be first to be designed and rebuilt while all temporary openings continue to be used. If I can open a crossover safely, I will.
State Road A1A: We all know what happened to the Scenic Byway. The state lost a 1.3 mile section of A1A on the south end of Flagler Beach, and a second two-block section between North 21st and 23rd Streets. The undermining of the road and the need to restore structural support led to the creation of painful detours for residents of Flagler Beach and its visitors. There have been temporary repairs to both sections, with discussions still continuing on how best to shore up the road permanently. I will continue to work toward a permanent solution with the state transportation department during this process.
Prior to my arrival as city manager a year ago, the county, along with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, had managed the planned beach renourishment project for our city. The primary goal is to make sure the permanent solution by the state transportation department will not impact the ability of the city or Flagler County to apply for federal funds to maintain our beach for future renourishment projects. In addition, during past workshops, the option was presented to divert traffic to our local roadways to alleviate the need to rebuild two lanes on SRA1A. Let me assure you: this is not an option. The state cannot proceed with such a plan without the city’s approval, and the cost-benefit is not there.
I want to thank all citizens for your patience and to assure you City staff is working diligently to seek normalcy after Hurricane Matthew.
Larry Newsom became Flagler Beach’s manager in January 2016. Reach him by email at [email protected].
I find this comment interesting and it needs clarification “” There are 52 dune crossovers between Beverly Beach and the Flagler-Volusia County line for which the city is responsible.” So what “City” is he talking about, ? The City of Palm Coast, the City of Flagler Beach, the City of Marineland ? so a walkover residing in Marineland Acres is now going to be fixed by the “City”.
Richard Smith says
Thank you for your action and support in restoring the quality of life for all residents of Flagler Beach. I also appreciate your efforts in rebuilding the pier and especially accelerating the repair of all of the dune crossovers giving people better access to the beach for recreation and fishing.
I am exceptionally pleased that diverting A1A traffic to secondary residential roads will NOT be an option. I did not purchase my residence on Daytona Avenue with the knowledge that one day it would be turned into a highway. Maybe one day, not in my lifetime, it may become beachfront property LOL but that will be another person’s problem.
Jane Gentile-Youd says
Whatever it takes to retain the alluring cozy and welcoming charm of Flagler Beach should be the top priority. Not only is Flagler Beach the highlight of the county (in my opinion) it is the center of tourism ( as well as the bread and butter of the (overpriced) bed tax). How about diverting every cent of this bed tax this year to help Flagler Beach recover instead of sponsoring assinine mud races, etc?
Larry Krasner says
Not sure of the value of building “the longest pier on the east cost” in Flagler Beach. From an economical standpoint that might mean adding restaurant and entertainment sites to the pier and that could lead to overtaxing downtown parking. If extending it beyond original length would benefit fishing from the pier, that would be a good idea but being the longest or biggest anything in the country is not what Flagler Beach is about.
We need to start addressing the fire hazard that was left by this hurricane now. There are numerous dead Oaks and other type trees and plants that did not survive. We need to clean this up before the lighting storms return. We will have serious wild fires this summer if we do not take care of this now!
@ Ron, regarding the stuff that looks dead, we need to wait till spring to see whats really dead, then take action. OF course if there are trees that are rotten, broke and leaning over sure lets get those out, but who’s going to pay for it. .
Brian Ford says
Many thanks to Manager Newsom and his staff for their work over this past year and in the months since Hurricane Matthew. A special thanks for this thorough and well thought out progress report.
Leticia danaso says
Unless I missed it, I did not see any remedies or repairs noted for the dunes and beach replenishment – There is still a lot of debris on the beach as well as rotting seaweed that is too close to the road to be taken out by the ocean and it smells – the beaches were narrow to begin with and n spots are even worse – Is the city and / or FEMA going to help with that r does that depend on what type of repairs you do to A1A i.e. Sea wall or no wall?
Why would the City of Flagler Beach be accountable for any damage beyond it’s City limits? The area’s you speak of are North of said area
I have traveled the State of Florida and fished many different Piers and they tend to generate a bit more money then our Pier does according to the locals and restaurant/bait shop owners I have spoken with! Flagler Pier in previous yrs. has brought in around $175k, and I know this because I have worked there and known every renter of the bait shop. If your not a fisherman, it may surprise you that people are willing to spend the money to travel to a great fishing destination if they hear of it. My personal opinion is it should be at minimum put back to the original 1k foot mark, but would like to see 1.2k because it would allow at least the guys on the end of the Pier to reach the dropoff which is roughly 16-19ft. deep thus helping them immensely!
Rick Belhumeur says
Leticia, The re-nourishment of the 2.6 miles of coastline within the army corps project depends totally on seawall versus no seawall. Repairs to the rest of the Flagler Beach coastline along with the rest of Flagler County’s coastline are being studied by engineers hired by the County. The engineering for the 2.6 mile St reach done by the Army Corps of Engineers will be totally changed by having any seawalls inserted within its parameters, therefore disqualifying the project.
George Chambers says
My experiences with site work and road building from Vermont after the 100 yr flood points to considering moving A1A….. I understand the trials and tribulations of property owners regardless of how that may affect you and I do sympathies. My comments are only logistacil. A1A is too close to a non gradual surf in this area. There is not sufficient break tide room for this road to be located that close. The only long term solution would be to move A1A inland. Unless there are funds always available to continually repair this section of beach I don’t see ignoring the inevitable as a long term solution. Flagler is a fantastic quaint little beach unlike the mega beaches north and south. Why I live here. With proper planning I think we could maintain this and still permanently fix the problem. Let’s plan for 25 years from now not 2. Just sayin.
Chuck Sartoris says
Probably ought to worry about fixing the walkovers while waiting on approval and fed funds. Don’t want people walking along A1A for blocks to get into the beach. Second rebuild the beach. And lastly the length of the pier. Wonder what the return on investment is on the pier?Do that many people pay to go on it? Any figures $$
Like anything and everything Flagler County, they write their thoughts but always fail at providing a solution, they never have a plan in place until its at the last desperate moment.
David Brodhecker says
First Thank you Mr Newsome on your update, of the situations affecting our community. I have a question that maybe you can answer. If you are looking to extend the pier, would it be possible to sink six foot high barriers a few hundred feet off shore to help with beach building, and it would make a better channel for fishing from the pier. I am not a hydraulic or civil engineer but believe this move would help to raise the entire beach, increase the width of the beach to the ocean, protect the dunes, and infrastructure that supports A1A. I am handicapped and would really like to see an addition to the current ramp to allow wheelchairs to access the packed sand area of the beach also. Currently the last 8-10 feet of the beach ramp across from 2nd Street south is unusable by anyone in a normal wheelchair.
George is right. With all the money we have spent on fixing the beach and road numerous times, we could relicate A1A and be done with it. It’s should happen sooner rather than later. Stop waisting money and get it done now. Have you ever heard of eminent domain! ? You did it by the high school.
Address fire hazard please! says
I agree with the poster “We need to start addressing the fire hazard that was left by this hurricane now. There are numerous dead Oaks and other type trees and plants that did not survive. We need to clean this up before the lighting storms return. We will have serious wild fires this summer if we do not take care of this now!”.. if you drive along Palm Coast Parkway towards the Hammocks and down Colbert, you will see huge oak trees still laying knocked down. Not only is it unsightly, it is a fire hazard! When the city outsourced hurricane cleanup, why were these huge trees left behind??