The Flagler Beach City Commission Thursday evening unanimously approved re-establishing a Beach Management Committee that may play a role in the updating of a beach-management plan the city laboriously produced several years ago, after two years’ work by such a committee.
Key to the proposal is an annual $500,000 contribution to city coffers from the state Department of Environmental Protection for management of six miles of dunes in the city, in the wake of Hurricane Matthew and Irma destruction. For the state agency to grant that money to Flagler Beach, the city must have an acceptable beach management plan in place. If it does not, the money defaults to Flagler County government.
County and city governments have previously agreed that the county will rebuild the dunes as part of its ongoing, $25 million plan to put back as much sand as possible that Matthew and Irma took away—along the entire Flagler shore—but to turn over the six miles of beach in Flagler Beach to the city for subsequent management and maintenance. Part of that agreement included foregoing a beach-renourishment plan by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. That plan, which would have focused on beaches in the city, had run into multiple delays and complications. The county successfully pushed to abandon it.
The state environmental protection agency has in hand one updated version of Flagler Beach’s management plan. City Manager Larry Newsom recently sent it there. But the plan may lack critical additions, and the city—and Newsom—expect the state agency to send it back for revisions. Those revisions must be conducted through a city-commission appointed committee.
The commission initially established the committee in June 2012. The committee worked on the plan for two years. The original committee had seven members–six selected by the city commission and one selected by the city manager. The new committee will mirror the old one. City Commissioner Kim Carney asked to serve on the new committee, as she had served on the previous one, as an ex-officio member.
Leigh Ann Koch, selected by Mayor Linda Provencher, John Feind, a former city commissioner selected by Commissioner Jane Mealy, and Sharon Andre, selected by Commissioner Marshall Shupe, have all agreed to serve again, having served initially. Cora Lee Leon declined serving again but volunteered her editing skills. Commissioner Rick Belhumeur recommended Quentin Parker, and Commissioner Eric Cooley recommended Becky Porchout.
Cooley had some reservations Thursday evening, regarding the reestablishment of the committee. “What good would it do to pull all these people together and pay a staff member to do it?” he asked.
“I want DEP to look at it and see if there’s additional boxes we need to check according to their criteria, most likely there will be,” Newsom said. That being the case, the committee’s work will be essential.
Carney noted several new perspectives may have to be added to the beach management plan, among them the matter of sea level rises, dune walkovers, and the work of Chad Boda, a sustainable-beach scholar who has been advising the city. (On Wednesday, a study in the journal Nature concluded that Antarctica is melting three times as fast as just a decade ago, and that sea levels are set to rise six inches by the end of the century.)
“There’s no mention of Matthew or Irma in this document, there’s no mention of sea rise levels in this document,” Carney said. “Some of the issues are controversial, we need to have some other people look at it.”
It’s possible, but not likely, that the Department of Environmental Protection returns the document to Flagler Beach without recommended revisions. If that happens, the committee will not be necessary.
Either way, its work is expected to be much swifter than in 2012. “It’s not going to run for two years Eric,” Carney assured Cooley. “There’s no way it’s going to run for two years.”
The commission approved the committee creation 4-1. (Shupe was absent.)