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12-Year Effort to “Renourish” Beaches All But Washes Out as County Urges Wall of Dunes Instead

| August 7, 2017

Changing track: Flagler County Administrator Craig Coffey is urging county commissioners and the Flagler Beach City Commission to change course, abandon a long-studied plan to 'renourish" beaches, and adopt a more state and local p[lan to rebuild dunes. (c FlaglerLive)

Changing track: Flagler County Administrator Craig Coffey is urging county commissioners and the Flagler Beach City Commission to change course, abandon a long-studied plan to ‘renourish” beaches, and adopt a more state and local p[lan to rebuild dunes. (c FlaglerLive)

Ten months after Hurricane Matthew, federal emergency dollars have yet to be secured for beach repairs and the county is well into another hurricane season with its dunes–its defenses–down. But plans are in the works for building thin, emergency dunes in Flagler Beach sometime in 2018, assuming the Federal Emergency Management Administration approves.

And the county has an even broader plan for a more permanent fix: rebuilding the dunes for good, but to do so, Flagler Beach and the county would have to abandon their 12-year effort to “renourish” beaches through a U.S. Corps of Engineers project.

That’s the message from County Administrator Craig Coffey to a joint meeting of the county and Flagler Beach commissions Monday afternoon. It was not exactly what Flagler Beach commissioners wanted to hear, though it was not a surprise, either, because it was also a reflection of current realities: Hurricane Matthew depleted the county’s coffers, limiting its financial ability to do much on its own. FEMA’s rules and the U.S. Army Corps’ bureaucracy and funding sources tend to grind rather than move along, leaving local governments at the mercy of both.

The better alternative, in Coffey’s view, is to bring more decision-making closer to home: to the county and to state agencies.

Flagler Beach had long put its hopes in a U.S. Army Corps of Engineer project to “renourish” the beach by dumping sand and raising its dunes, even well before Hurricane Matthew. The hurricane could have accelerated the project. It has done the opposite, even though Congress last year authorized at least some renourishment. But authorization doesn’t mean appropriation of money. Those appropriations are nowhere in sight.

“We’ve been at it for almost 12 years,” Coffey said, and spent $3 million along the way, between the various government agencies involved, “and we have nothing to show but getting approved as a potential federal project, and moving forward we don’t have a clear path.” The project has been scaled back to 2.6 miles out of 6.25 miles, the timing is uncertain, the rules keep changing.

Coffey’s proposal: Drop the Army Corps of Engineers approach, and go with a more state and local-based approach.

“I’ve said it from 12 years ago, I’m OK that they don’t dredge, because they’re dredging sand that doesn’t belong on our beach,” Flagler Beach Commissioner Joy McGrew said.

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But “there is a dredging element coming up” regardless, Commission Chairman Nate McLaughlin said.

That alternative involves the county, the state Department of Transportation and–still–the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but it would focus exclusively on building a wall of dunes. That wall would be built from a base of rock, coated in a thick layer of sand to make the rocks invisible. At least until the next storm. The approach is based on the restoration of 6.25 miles, dredging sand from offshore and rebuilding dunes rather than rebuilding the beach. The cost: $20 million. (That $20 million is entirely separate from the $35 million reconstruction cost of State Road A1A.)

Coffey has an idea where the money would come from: mostly from the state Transportation Department, with smaller amounts from the state Department of Environmental Protection and from Flagler County’s Tourist Development Council. But most of that money has not been secured.

The design alone for that project would take one to two years. Construction would not start before 2019, and some of it would dovetail a project that will begin in 2018, and that has no direct county or city involvement: the state Department of Transportation’s plan to rebuild State Road A1A, with a sea wall at the north end of the city.

The sand for those dunes would be dredged from about seven miles offshore.

There was quite a bit of government-bashing along the way, particularly from McGrew, though Coffey said the motives of local and state governments can be more easily understood than government further away.

Meanwhile, even for a short-term fix, the county itself cannot step in and drop protective sand in Flagler Beach ahead of time, even if it would be reimbursed, for lack of money.

“You’re talking about big dollars here,” Coffey told the Flagler Beach commission, and if the county were to front the money now, it could be left holding the bag if FEMA does not come through, or if certain FEMA rules aren’t followed to the letter.

Getting FEMA to come through has been a 10-month challenge. “The FEMA solution is the temporary solution,” Coffey said.

County officials, including Coffey and Commissioner Greg Hansen, met with Federal Emergency Management Association to speed up a process that’s been “meandering a little bit,” in Coffey’s words. The county and Flagler Beach have applied for FEMA funds to repair Hurricane Matthew damage. EMA hasn’t gone so far as even filling out the so-called “work sheets” necessary to get the grants going.

“We have their attention,” Hansen he said, after meeting for 10 minutes with FEMA’s assistant director of disaster recovery for 10 minutes. “I was able to lay out some frustrations.” The next thing Coffey heard, Hansen said, was that they would be “concentrating on Flagler County.”

For Flagler Beach, the city’s three miles or so of shoreline could be in line for emergency protective “berms,” or smaller, thinner dunes (they would be 6 cubic yards), that would be built in early 2018 and would cost $5.46 million, with a local match of $1.4 million. “We have no guarantee of approval,” Coffey said. “it’s not 100 percent clear-cut, they have rules and regulations but you have some interpretation a little bit.”

That would still leave Flagler vulnerable at least to one storm season, Commission Chairman Nate McLaughlin said.

The question is what sand to use in Flagler Beach. That’s still not settled.

“We have two sources of sand at no cost,” Jon Netts, the former Palm Coast mayor who still serves on the Florida Inland Navigation District, said, describing it as “beach-quality sand,” near New Smyrna Beach and near the Matanzas inlet. The sand is free. “The only cost is transportation.” Testing is ongoing.

The county is currently buying sand for its own purposes in unincorporated Flagler but not from those sources. “The sand we’re buying is at between $5 and $10 a ton, it’s not super-expensive sand as much as the transportation,” Coffey said.

“We are trying to get the corps to federalize the entire 18 miles,” Hansen said, but only to the extent that the projects would meet FEMA standards, but not beyond that. The beaches will not be considered Army Corps beaches that, whatever happens in the future, would be rebuilt at federal expense. In other words, should another major storm strike the shore and demolish the dunes, there is no insurance policy, not back-up plan to rebuild the damage, other than to o it all over again–at state and local expense, assuming dollars and willingness are at hand.

The County Presentation:

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22 Responses for “12-Year Effort to “Renourish” Beaches All But Washes Out as County Urges Wall of Dunes Instead”

  1. john holdefehr says:

    we need to keep the ocean clean stop the high rise building on the beach

  2. Flatsflyer says:

    They still won’t admit global warming and climate change, let aflaglrr Beach wash into the sea and then maybe these fools will wake up. Dump Trump and Scott and half your problems would be solved.

  3. John dolan says:

    I suggest sending Mr Coffey to the beach with a children’s beach bkt n’ shovel so he can start the project. What a joke.

  4. Roll on 2 says:

    Time to move A1A to Central Ave! This is exactly like what happened in Summer Haven years ago. After Hurricane Dora, A1A was moved further inland.

  5. Andrea Stowell says:

    There is no high rise buildings allowed over a mean of 35 feet in Flagler Beach. I suggest the commission speak to the folks in Hammock Dunes. Their dunes are totally replenished and they got all the sand locally. When it comes to Flagler’s beaches the dragging of feet is the norm. We have been here 17years and they have been concerned about beach restoration since we moved here. I am still a strong supporter of the groins which still make sense to me.

  6. TeddyBallGame says:

    Until ALL Flagler county residents have access to ALL our beaches I will remain opposed to any county, state or federal funds being used to replenish those restricted beaches. If you look at the map, almost HALF or Flagler county coastline is not accessible by county residents. They are behind guarded community gates that do not allow or accommodate public access. And now these communities are demanding that we the general public pay the cost for their “private” beach replenishment.

    Not only no, but HELL NO!!!

  7. Lou says:

    Try solving fluid dynomic issues by politicians influenced by special/political/ideological interests.
    Good luck!

  8. Dave says:

    Close A1A in Flagler beach to all motor traffic, open it to foot traffic with a skate board and bike lane, divert all traffic to one of the other roads and stop wasting money and time, We love our beach , we need our beach

  9. Sherry says:

    OMG! Here we go again! This situation has been “studied”, “assessed” and “discussed” incessantly for 12 years! Now, the completely “unqualified” county manager comes up with another “brain storm”, and stops any kind of movement towards a solution in its tracks.

    Any funding that may have been approved by the federal and state governments has apparently slipped through the cracks because our local government officials are “deer in the headlights” when it comes to making any kind of decision!

    Yes. . . while “climate change” is most certainly a “scientific FACT” . . . the ocean is rising. . . erosion will continue to be a huge problem. . . we cannot just “give up” and do nothing to restore the beach AND the dunes! It is not an “either, or” question. We must do both! Letting the homes and businesses of Flagler Beach wash into the sea is NOT an OPTION!

    City and County Commissioners “Make an Environmentally Sound Decision” and “Take Action Now!”

  10. Sw says:

    IT is a loosing proposition , waste of $$. Plant Sea oats and move on…..

  11. John dolan says:

    You could put every man woman and child in the state of Florida in a dumptruck hauling sand 24/7 and it wouldn’t solve the problem. Yo Craig, you can’t fool mother nature bro!

  12. Merrill Shapiro says:

    Let’s all thank our man in Washington, Ron Desantis, for accomplishing absolutely nothing to help us! It’s time to send someone to Congress for whom we are more than just an afterthought.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Why are we not even looking at jetties? This adding of sand over and over again is ridiculous. The same thing with the pier. How many times are we going to do the same thing? Mother fire has other plans. What happens if there is another substantial hurricane this year? We are SOL. Try something new. It’s not rocket science.

  14. Dave says:

    Close A1A in Flagler beach to all motor traffic, open it up to foot traffic with lanes for skate boarding and bicycles and reroute motor traffic to one of the other roads in flagler beach.

  15. gmath55 says:

    Al Gore is a liar and a con-man. The science is made up. One of the challenges is taking what the scientists say and believing it. Here are 5 truths you can trust in before global warming:

    1. Katelyn Jenner’s Breast milk.
    2. Unprotected sex with Miley Cyrus
    3. Casey Anthony’s babysitter service
    4. Having a drink with Bill Cosby
    5. Hillary’s honesty and integrity

    Well… at least he invented the internet!
    Al Gore’s ‘An Inconvenient Sequel’ bombs at the box office, ranks in 15th place.
    This movie could replace water boarding.

  16. Mothers Worry says:

    Curious how these self proclaimed engineers plan to fit the traffic on A1A onto South Central Ave or any other street for that matter. Doesn’t the state mandate a heavier material for state roads to hold the heavy vehicles? You can barely get two cars side by side on it. A1A south of the water tower has dunes in the same or worse shape as the rest of city. Guess they’d divert at High Bridge and cut a road through to South Central. Rest assured that if our representatives, city, county and federal don’t get off their collective rear ends before we have another hurricane the question will be moot.

    Oh, Desantis will be no help as he is too busy trying to get face time with Trump. He should be arrested for impersonating a congressman.

  17. Mark101 says:

    TeddyBallGame, hey just go use Varn Park, the most cars I seen there is 17, and its free.

  18. Dave says:

    Climate change is undeniable

  19. Sherry says:

    Climate Change is “SCIENTIFIC FACT”! Here’s what the “Scientists” at NASA say about Climate Change. . . I suppose you’ll call them liars too. . . living your life according to conspiracy theories and the National Enquirer. . . how pathetic. . .

  20. Sw says:

    Also move the road back inland before Mother Nature does it for you. It will happen much sooner than later.

  21. Smarterthanmost says:

    Simple solution, stop all through traffic on AIA. Force everyone coming and leaving Flagler Beach to use the bridge on Moody.

  22. fishflats says:

    Dear Craig Coffey and Flagler Beach City Commissioners,

    Twelve years and $3 million dollars spent along the way… and nothing to show for it. Embarrassing! In every successful private sector enterprises this would never happen as there are measureable deliverables and accountability. Every decision maker on this project would have been fired inside of a year.

    Here is how you get this done – read “A Case Study” written by Paul Greilich on Dispute Resolution regarding the 2008 Cape San Blas Beach Re-nourishment. It is on the internet. Contact the decision makers there and replicate how a group from a tiny community took on a $21 million dollar project and completed it in a fraction of the time you all have been spinning your wheels. And that project had more complicated issues – by far.

    I built a ocean front house there and lived through this excellent small town Florida project. I live here now are it pains me to see how poorly this is being managed.

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