Last Updated: 12:41 p.m.
Two decades on, the eternally-delayed plan to rebuild the dunes on 2.6 miles of beach south of the Flagler Beach pier has been delayed yet again, and will not get under way in June or any time this year, as Flagler County government and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had projected.
The delay this time is not due to the lone hold-out who is refusing to sign easements that would allow dune construction on two of her parcels. Not directly, anyway. Rather, the entire dune-rebuilding project must be redesigned and the volume of sand needed for it recalculated, County Attorney Al Hadeed told the Flagler Beach City Commission Thursday evening.
That means the dune-renourishment project slated to begin in June, and to be completed by fall, will not happen, again leaving the shore–and State Road A1A–vulnerable to the next hurricane season. So many agencies are involved in the process that it’s not even clear anymore when the project could be done. It also means that costs will increase substantially.
It is the latest dispiriting revelation about the dunes project in a long list of dispiriting developments that have kept the project from construction, leaving what had already been a critically eroded stretch of beach to erode further. State Road A1A was again shredded by Hurricane Nicole last fall, just six years after it had been demolished by Hurricane Matthew. The demolition this time would very likely not have happened had the dunes been rebuilt, county officials said in the wake of Nicole’s destruction.
So while Hadeed on Thursday evening did not directly attribute the latest delay to the hold-out, the last three years’ delays, awaiting those easements, have unquestionably played a major role in the Corps’ decision to scrap its design and start over.
The redesign is necessary because the original design of the project, federally funded since 2018, is out of date. Hurricanes and storms have continued to carve out the shore, and with such severity, that the amount of sand originally needed for the entire 50-year span of the project will now be needed just for the first phase of the renourishment. The Corps is looking to rebuild dunes and expand the breadth of the beach, which will look wider if and when the project is completed.
“We learned from an intergovernmental conference call this week that the Corps has determined it is necessary to redesign the project, essentially making it even more substantial than previously explained,” Hadeed told the commission in a statement read by attorney Scott Spradley, who is working with the county on the easement issue. (Hadeed, who has been ill, spoke to commissioners by phone during the meeting.) “When the project was originally put together, the Army Corps calculated the amount of sand we would need for the full 50-year period of renourishment cycles. That includes not just the initial renourishment work, but also the periodic re-nourishments every 10 or 11 years, plus a certain estimated volume for repairs after storms. The entire 50-year volume will be needed now, just to do the initial renourishment.”
The agencies involved in the project estimated that it would take approximately six months to complete a redesign, including procuring all permits and authorizations for such work. “This obviously will substantially delay when the project can start,” Hadeed said. But the redesign will require new surveys on the extent of erosion since 2016, both onshore and below the sea surface. It would take 11 months, by his calculation, to complete a survey of the shore, the redesign, the bidding and mobilization for work.
The county and the federal government had planned to renourish the beach with sand from a borrow pit 11 miles offshore. Now they will have to secure a larger area of that borrow pit to provide the necessary sand volume, again requiring a new round of permitting–just months after doing exactly that. But erosion is occurring at such a pace that permitting isn’t keeping pace. Hadeed said there are no concerns that the borrow pit would prove insufficient for current and further dredging.
“This activity will require a new lease with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management of the U.S. Department of the Interior,” Hadeed said. “Because the project will be more substantial, a supplemental environmental assessment will also be required.”
When the county approved the project in 2019, its cost was $100 million over 50 years, with the first phase totaling $17.5 million. The federal government was paying $11.4 million of it, the county was responsible for the rest. The county secured state funds to cover that cost. All those costs are now out of date, too. The Corps hasn’t issued new cost estimates. (See: “Flagler About To Sign 50-Year, $100 Million Deal to Rebuild 2.6 Miles of Dunes in Flagler Beach. It Has Only a Fraction of the Money.”)
The latest delay relieves some pressure from the county to secure the two easements from Cynthia d’Angiolini, the property owner who has been refusing to sign them. But again, while the county has been threatening eminent domain proceedings against d’Angiolini for well over two years, Hadeed said that’s not the direction the county will take.
“Rather than utilizing the eminent domain process with its complexities, added costs and time requirements for the remaining remnants, we believe that if our final voluntary acquisition efforts are not successful, we should be able to acquire the remnants through the bankruptcy proceedings.”
The county is still in the process of procuring the two easements for the two remnants belonging to Cynthia d’Angiolini.
D’Angiolini has been in Chapter 13 bankruptcy for the past three years. The county discovered that she never disclosed to the court that she owned the two parcels for which the county wants signed easements. That deception has put the discharge of d’Angiolini’s bankruptcy in jeopardy. The county, with Spradley handling that aspect of the case, has been pressuring d’Angiolini to sign in exchange for a resolution of the bankruptcy case. Alternately, the county is pressing the bankruptcy court to convert the Chapter 13 bankruptcy to Chapter 7, enabling a receiver to take over d’Angiolini’s dune remnants, which would then facilitate the county’s acquisition of those easements. A hearing is scheduled for Jan. 31 in Orlando.
Hadeed on Friday clarified by email: that while the county started the eminent domain process last April or May, “Those negotiations were suspended, however, when we learned that the owner of the two remnants did not have authority to sell her land interests due to the bankruptcy case. The authority for disposition of those real estate interests now rests with the bankruptcy court.”
“We will continue to pursue all aspects of the project with great vigor,” Hadeed told commissioners on Thursday, “and just as we have for the countless owners who have signed easements voluntarily, we will accord them all respect for their positions as property owners, but not to elevate an owner who has no reason to resist being a part of the project and putting the entire community at continued risk of harm.”
City Commissioner Eric Cooley was concerned about the city potentially losing the project entirely. Hadeed said that’s not a possibility.
In fact, the Corps has threatened to pull its funding already, more than once, as the county failed to secure all necessary easements. And it may rethink the project altogether if the Florida Department of Transportation decides to build a sea wall along that portion of A1A.
“We have to be careful of the federal rules involved here,” City Manager William Whitson said, “because the whole reason for the beach renourishment project and justification in the federal rules is protection of A1A, and there have been some sentiments saying that if you put sea walls up then you don’t need the sand, and the federal government would pull out. So you’ve got to be careful in how we structure this discussion.”
Romuald Flieger says
Hi , great that the army corps of engineers is redesigning the project. I think the Gray trap rock will be a better option also I have a idea once a layer of stone is layed loose concrete mix poured in to bind them together. Also the temporary fix of 14 million dollars should be stopped until everything is planned for long term.
I always wondered why the replenishment project was scheduled during hurricane season.
Mr. Hadeed has worked exhaustively during this whole process of obtaining access. I only wish he had used eminent domain a year ago. The bankruptcy ‘oversight’ was a piece of late luck.
Maybe it’s time to just concede the heavily damaged areas to Mother Nature
and plan a re-routing of Flagler Beach’s part of A1A, or duh, construct a massive seawall.
Remember building sand castles as a kid, harnessing your budding engineering skills?
Despite your best efforts, your sandy real estate empires would always wash away.
Undaunted, you set out to build new sand castles yet again, fully aware that
they were temporary structures.
Consider that a corollary akin to today’s proposed band-aid “solutions” seemingly
planned by grown-ups with failed sandy real estate ventures. People are getting very
rich trucking in innumerable tons of sand, hoping for a redux after the next hurricane.
Sysiphus would keep rolling that boulder uphill only to have it roll back on him every time
and never made a penny—it’s too bad he didn’t know about A1A—he’d be rolling in dough!
Richard Smith says
Ben Hogarth says
I’m really not trying to sound like a doomer – but this is the beginning of the end. It’s not a question of engineering. I’ve had the pleasure to work and collaborate with USACE and they are remarkable professionals. The problem is us – and our policy efforts which have been woefully inadequate.
This issue truly is the crisis of our time – and its the greatest crisis man has ever faced. For Flagler (as with many coastal communities) there is a critical need to “buy time” through civil engineering and mitigation measures that will invariably limit the earliest impacts of sea level rise and saltwater intrusion. This water level increase, which is very much our own making, will cost us 10x on the back end, whatever we fear in up front costs. So in the infamous words of Samuel L Jackson (Jurassic Park) – hold on to your butts.
As for the Dune restoration – I’m not convinced this is the best policy going forward. Replacing sand at exorbitant cost while storms and water take more away than we can ever hope to add – and faster – is futile.
Again, not an engineering issue with the Army Corps – it’s a scale and feasibility issue. It’s simply not possible long term. We need to retreat.
And we need to start talking about what exactly that means. And we need it now.
As usual, you’re exactly right. Sea levels are rising. That is the way things are.
Also, you raise issues understood by geology, and hydrology, i.e., salt water intrusion; subjects the “boys” avoid like a gambler hiding from his bookie. It ain’t a goddamn bit funny.
And so it goes.
It’s known they are throwing money at at losing project! When it fails and it will, they’ll say we’ve tried & that will be that. We started having problems when they dredged Matanzas years ago, so there was ocean access. Mother Nature has had enough of human interference & mostly ignorance!
Well if they keep throwing sand at it, its just sand in the water and a repeat after repeat.
Not only sand its money too.
It is a rinse and repeat exercise.
Webster’s Dictionary says
The County Attorney’s definition of “vigor” will be added to our next edition. Intensity of action or effect is clearly insufficient. Wasn’t a resolution of the easement issue previously promised by year end 2022?
Keep Flagler Beautiful says
I have never lived anywhere on Earth that had more incompetent people running the government than here, both at the local and county level. Someone needs to put their coffee cup down, do some work for a change, and make sure that federal money isn’t pulled. Paging someone competent! Anybody?
We definitely need the project and I have no doubt the Corps will do a good job of rebuilding the dunes and beach, which clearly is what needs to be redone. And its a silver lining that it has taken so long because these last hurricanes would have significantly damaged the work. What will be needed is an annual pledge by someone to replenish the dunes. Every.Year. Otherwise it doesn’t work. Seawalls will clearly destroy the beach after a few years. The only thing that works is a dune and beach rebuild and renourish and then consistent replenishment. Unless you wanted to relocate A1A and all the businesses and homes along it.
Keep Flagler Beautiful says
John X is right. Like it or not, homeowners who are affected by the dunes must pay into a fund. That’s how it’s done in North Carolina. At some point the federal government is going to say no more money.
The voice of reason says
St Augustine gets their beach replenished about every 2-3 years, it washes away, replenished again and etc… No problem there. Endless waste of $$$ for tourism, pure and simple.
Ralph Chianelli says
Climate change has been on most people’s minds for some time now. The concept of changing climate and the resulting sea level rise as well as the increased number and severity of storms has hit many parts of the United States. If you live in Florida it has even greater meaning.
The Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Government has been diligent and generous to help rebuild our shoreline and Route A1A a number of times. While we dearly appreciate the help in rebuilding our dunes and roadway, the idea that the government help will continue ad infinitum without limits defies logic.
I recently watched a four part series on PBS called “Sinking Cities”. It was a documentary showing what four major cities are doing to mitigate sea level rise and shoreline erosion. While Florida and Flagler in particular was not part of the series (Miami was), one idea stood out as a possible real solution to our beach erosion.
The use of ‘living breakwater’ structures strategically placed causes the wave action to be interrupted thereby mitigating and reducing beach erosion. While this would not stop sea level rise, it could help us keep our beaches and scenic highway from washing away every couple of years.
A living breakwater is a cage that is seeded with sea life like clams, mussels, and mollusks that attach themselves to the cage helping maintain its integrity. These cages can be of almost any size, stacked and moved if necessary as sea currents change.
I cannot imagine that the Army Corps of Engineers does not have historical data on the U.S. shoreline, both east and west coast. I would like to think an idea like ‘living breakwaters’ would be in the mix of consideration.
We love our beaches. We have a great investment in our property. We should consider every reasonable possible solution to slow the loss of both.
We already have a “living breakwater”; it’s called a barrier island. These islands are Mama Nature’s way of protecting the mainland. Barrier islands are purely sacrificial and are constantly moving. Where was Matanzas Inlet 200 years ago?
Lance Carroll says
Redesigning the beach renourishment basically means that the initial design has already been washed away. 20 yr project, right?