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It’s Not Enough to Say No to a Seawall in Flagler Beach: An Action Plan Past Opposition

| April 18, 2011

It isn;t just about opposing a seawall. Flagler Beach needs a plan to protect A1A. (© FlaglerLive)

It isn't just about opposing a seawall. Flagler Beach needs a plan to protect A1A. (© FlaglerLive)

The Flagler Beach City Commission opposes a Florida Department of Transportation plan to extend a seawall from South 13th to South 14th Street in Flagler Beach. The plan is to preserve State Road A1A, which is threatened by erosion. The transportation department announced last week that, as it did in 2005, it was pulling back plans to build that seawall for now. But postponement is not elimination. As Flagler Beach officials recognize, their city depends on the beach and the road. Shery Epley, a resident of Flagler Beach, sent a six-point action plan to each city commissioner late last month that, regardless of the transportation department’s timetable, would give the initiative on saving beach and road to Flagler Beach. The plan follows.

By Sherry Epley

Sherry Epley

To enforce our will of “no seawall,” our Flagler Beach city commissioners need to develop a strong, comprehensive strategy to oppose the plans of the Florida Deparrtment of Transportation, and require that they implement an environmentally acceptable solution to the restoration of our badly eroded coastline and the preservation of State Road A1A. Chances are that we will need to mount a campaign that involves several tactics:

1. Education. I was astonished and disappointed to see that not one commissioner encouraged the dog owners to stay for the “stop the seawall” portion of the March 24th meeting. It was the perfect opportunity to continue educating our citizens on the seriousness of the situation with the plans for a seawall. We need to teach all who enjoy our beaches about the harsh reality of how seawalls speed erosion and therefore destroy dunes and beaches that dogs, as well as humans enjoy.

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2. Circle the wagons. We need to develop the campaign from a public relations perspective, in addition to closely involving our civic organizations in opposing the FDOT plan. It is amazing to me that the Chamber of Commerce isn’t up in arms about this situation. Our town is unique in that its lifeblood is derived from the natural beauty of our environment. While often the Chambers of Commerce is in political opposition to the environmentalists and the Environmental Protection Agency, this circumstance provides an extraordinary opportunity for those two forces to unite in a campaign for the common good. The solution that saves our environment will also save the tourist- and resident- serving businesses of Flagler Beach.

3. Use the environmental protection laws to our advantage. The wonderful sea turtles and right whales are protected under the endangered species laws. Any solution proposed by the FDOT/Army Corps of Engineers that is proven to harm those species or their habitat is subject to regulations. We may need to consider the possibility of implementing a lawsuit against the FDOT/Corps of Engineers to protect those species.

4. Clearly define what options may be acceptable to our community. The FDOT has a responsibility to preserve A1A. Doing nothing to stop the erosion of the dune that supports the road is not acceptable for anyone. Since the FDOT remains entrenched in armor and dredge methods, which we oppose, we should create a task force to actively seek out scientists and engineers who may be able suggest or create viable options for restoring the dune structure. Once those ideas and options are presented to the FDOT, we must stand strong and require that the FDOT fully investigate the feasibility of using one or more of the solutions presented instead of rejecting them immediately, as they have done in the past.

5. Organize a committee to create fluid communications between residents, civic organizations, city government and relevant state and federal agencies. If our citizens are going to be successful in opposing such well organized, professionally run organization as FDOT, we need to create a modern communications structure that easily keeps our community abreast of the latest news, developments and meetings, in addition to providing a convenient way for them to sign petitions, email and call state and federal representatives, and volunteer to actively participate in the campaign. We should utilize public records such as lists of email addresses to communicate with our citizens in order to educate them on this subject and encourage them to participate, according to their abilities and talents.

6. Fund-raising. Costs would involve such things as fliers, signs, web site development, professional studies, meetings and possibly public relations professionals, and attorneys, etc. Quite possibly there may be a need to raise funds beyond our tax structure to roll out a successful project of this magnitude.

In closing, I would like to suggest that since saving our dunes and beach equals saving our town, this issue should be escalated to be the number one priority of our city’s leaders. In my opinion, this campaign needs a chairperson who is passionate about the issue, courageous enough to oppose governmental agencies, and charismatic enough to excite and involve the citizens who can make the campaign successful for us all. My impression, from the March 24 commission meeting, is that City Commission Chairman John Feind is not the champion we need to lead us to victory. I would encourage the commission membership to select a commission chairperson who will devote the vast time and energy needed to be successful in heading up such a vital project.

Sherry Epley is a resident of Flagler Beach. Reach her by email here.

8 Responses for “It’s Not Enough to Say No to a Seawall in Flagler Beach: An Action Plan Past Opposition”

  1. Skeptic says:

    Seems to me that the best option is to quit trying to overcome the power of the Atlantic Ocean and reroute A1A several blocks west of the beach for about a half mile past the point of erosion. The Army Corps of Engineers will never be smart enough nor have enough money to solve this problem. The owner of the Topaz won’t agree with this but it surely won’t matter to the turtles or the whales. In fact the turtles would likely have a bigger better beach to use as a hatchery. The overall impact to tourism in Flagler Beach would be minimal, except of course to the merchants immediately west of the washout, but look at it this way… One good Hurricane and those guys are toast anyhow.

  2. Rob says:

    What happened to the man whose technology used submerged devices to replenish beaches.

    Was it the Holmberg Technologies?

    Is it possible that those who have vested interests in the dredging and pumping operations may have found a way to discredit this technology. If not directly, they may have used indirect methods so that no funding would be approved.

    Continually pumping sand onto a beach to have it wash back into the sea is job security for the dredging companies.

  3. lawabidingcitizen says:

    Skeptic, you took the words right out of my keyboard.

    The ocean will win every time (see Venice, Italy’s hundreds of years of trying to outsmart the sea to no avail). Work around the ocean. Don’t expect it to conform to the needs of a handful of small town merchants.

  4. Sisyphus says:

    I agree with Skeptic. Further, I offer…putting steel in the salty water and sand makes no sense, but in this age of plastics, why couldnt they formulate a seawall of say PVC filled with cement as close knit pilings, instead of steel or wood which would fail…further, the pvc could probably be reused if a storm did move it down the road…

  5. Wave Whisperer says:

    Here’s where Ms. Epley’s plan to educate will pay off. Skeptic and Lawabidingcitizen, it is not the ocean that erodes, but dredgers and the Army Corps of Engineers. Their dredging of navigational inlets and harbors is the cause (acknowledged by the ACE and the DEP) of shoreline erosion. Oceans build beaches. Give the ocean a fair facsimile of a natural beach, and it will build ours again.

  6. elaygee says:

    The Atlantic Ocean shoreline has been moving westward for hundreds of thousands of years and nothing is going to stop that. The barriers islands of Virginia and North Carloina used to be tens of miles further east as recently as the arrival of the first Europeans.

    Eventually, we’re going to have to give up. It’s an Ocean, not a swimming pool.

  7. Sherrrrry says:

    You are correct Rob. Holmberg technologies restored critically eroded beaches in Saudia Arabia and at multiple sites around lake Michigan. Regarding Venice Italy. . . new technologies are being used there with some pretty good success. . . glorious San Marco is still there for future generations to enjoy.

    Expecting several local businesses that sustain our local economy, and hundreds of home owners to abandon their properties and homes, or deal with busy A1A being rerouted where children now play is not the answer. If we can put a man on the moon, we can certainly solve this problem. I’m sure if Elaygee, Lawabidingcitizen and Skeptic had a home or business near the ocean, their tune would be complete different.

    We should come together as a community and require ” the powers that be” to seriously investigate Holmberg Systems and any other options available to restore the dune structure. . . which would in turn protect, and rekindle the beauty of our environment, the beaches that so many enjoy, and the road bed for A1A. Yes, we can restore our coastline. . . it’s been done very successfully by Holmberg. All we need to do is become less skeptical and get our heads “out of the sand”, and the sand onto the beach.

  8. lawabidingcitizen says:

    Wave Whisperer, I don’t believe the ocean causes erosion. It’s the meddlers that cause most problems. Nature, including oceans, will find its own equilibrium and nothing we puny mortals do will change that.

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