The U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s project to rebuild 2.6 miles of dunes along the south shore of Flagler Beach was to cost $17 million when it was first approved by Congress in 2017. It is now a $33 million project, with Flagler County responsible for $11.3 million of that.
The money has been secured. So have the perpetual easements allowing for the work on private property. So have the dates: The bids for the project would be opened next February. Construction would start in May 2024, and complete the work in January 2025.
The only questions remaining are to what extent and with how much money the Corps and the county will be able to extend the project north and south of the 2.6 miles. The broadest extension would raise the total cost to $42 million, with Flagler responsible for $28 million of that, keeping in mind that Flagler County or Flagler Beach taxpayers themselves are not going to see any difference on their tax bills. The county is securing its share through state and federal sources–the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of transportation, the Federal Emergency Management Administration, and special allocations by the legislature.
The county secured $17 million from the legislature last year. It is anticipating possibly as much by the time lawmakers finish their work this week.
Jason Harrah, the project manager for Flagler’s Army Corps renourishment since its inception in 2003, and Faith al-Khatib, the county engineer whose wizardry keeps securing beach-repair grant dollars by the tens of millions, sparing county and city taxpayers additional burdens, provided a 360-degree update to the Flagler County Commission on beach repairs. They discussed not just the Army Corps project, but how it fits along with–and influences–county-led dune-repair projects on the remaining miles of the county’s shoreline. Flagler County has 18 miles of shoreline in all, some of it under state jurisdiction because it fronts two state parks or recreation areas.
The more sand the county is able to dump on the Corps project’s flanks, north and south of it, the better it will be for the durability of the Corps project, and vice versa. As matters stand today, it appears the county may be able to stretch the federal projects enough to cover the entire south side of Flagler Beach. The cost Flagler County will have to finance–again, with state grants–will be $17 million.
“It will be a great opportunity for us to combine these two projects,” al-Khatib said, “we have the Corps of Engineers project, 2.6 miles, north and south of the project, 2.4 miles. Now we are combining these two projects.” She said the county has secured $14 million from the state Department of Transportation. The county still has a $2.4 million shortfall, with word from DOT that it will seek to find the additional funding. “So it looks really very promising.”
The Army Corps project has a 65-35 cost sharing formula for the initial construction. But it’s 50-50 in subsequent renourishments. The beach will have a 40 to 60-foot berm (the area where beach-goers hang out), extending underwater for a grand total of 110 feet of berm. “So that’s a really robust project,” Harrah said. “The smaller band-aid projects work but these projects are very, very robust. They’re much bigger projects, and we build so much fill to try to get that seven, eight, nine years down the road will we have to come back.” Walk-overs will be either repaired–by the city or the property owners, not by the Corps–or torn out before the project begins.
A staging area for the Corps’ contractor will be at the foot of the Flagler Beach water tower. But the Corps will now have to build a beach–build its own staging area–to enable the work, because the sliver has been eroded too far inland.
That still leaves key parts of Flagler County’s beach protection to be decided for the remaining miles, especially to what extent the county will be willing to rebuild dunes. Currently it is dumping sand along the shore north of Flagler Beach on an emergency basis. But that means very skinny, very short-lived dunes of 6 cubic yards per foot, compared to the 90 cubic yards per foot that the Army Corps will build. Skinny dunes don’t last. (The county conducted one emergency project, restoring 11.4 miles of dunes in 2018 and 2019. The rebuilt dunes provided some protection, but by last fall those dunes were gone, even before the season’s hurricane struck.)
Al-Khatib wants the commission to set aside a workshop to decide how it will proceed in the future.
The presentation was both sobering and encouraging. Sobering, because it outlined the immense sums of dollars getting spent on mere emergency maintenance of dunes that will soon be eroded again (outside of the Corps area, which is expected to be sturdier). But also encouraging, because Flagler County has managed to keep the flow of state and federal dollars going its way.
The presentation also sought to merge, as much as possible, the importance of both the Corps project and the county’s projects.
The study for the federal project was started in 2003. It initially encompassed all 18 miles of coastline. The Corps determined that only 2.6 miles of shoreline fit the criteria for a renourishment project. In 2017 the Department for Transportation granted Flagler County $6.6 million as its local match for what was then a $17 million project. The balance was assumed by the federal government. When the Army Corps project was initially conceived, it was to rebuild dunes at a rate of 44 cubic yards of sand per food. The severe erosion of the last half dozen years has now doubled that need, to 90 cubic yards of sand per foot, or 1.3 million cubic yards.
That still left the majority of Flagler’s shore increasingly vulnerable, and annually eroded wither by hurricanes or strong storms and tides. The county initiated its beach management study in 2019, which provided six alternatives, leaving it to the County Commission to pick one. It still hasn’t.
“We have to decide, do we want to do a dredging operation or keep doing trucking?” al-Khatib said. “The trucking will be good for emergency projects and for just dumping emergency sand for protection. But for a long term plan to protect and to restore our dunes and beaches, we need to do a dredging operation, and my understanding on my board, they are agreeing on that approach.” She does not favor more trucking, which is costing between $65 and $70 per cubic yard, tearing up roads and interfering with traffic. Dredging would cost $22 per cubic yard, al-Khatib said. There would be no road damage or traffic issues.
But a long-term, comprehensive funding plan remains elusive even as other pieces of the puzzle are being put in place, such as the expansion of the borrow pit offshore, from where all the new sand will be dredged in. So serious questions remain. For example: should the county commission lead the rebuilding across all miles of beaches? Should the county create a tax district? Should the county assume responsibility for Flagler Beach’s coastline, outside of the Corps boundaries? “We have been doing great job so far, reacting,” al-Khatib said.
The county has in the past attempted to punt some of the responsibility back to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers yet again, since that option is open. The county sent a letter in January, requesting yet another Corps of Engineers study to spread the Corps boundaries further north or south. That study alone would cost $3 million, requiring a local match of $1.5 million. (The county has asked for a fee waiver. It has not heard back whether that match will be waived.)
Either way, it’s a long shot, and risks serving as a mask for the county’s own immediate responsibilities. “You’re competing with a lot of different projects throughout the United States. The Assistant Secretary of the Army at the Pentagon gets about this many requests each year,” Harrah said, mimicking a stack two feet tall, then, narrowing his two hands to within inches, “and the budget is about that much each year for new studies.”
The county has to secure easements along much of those 12 miles, the way it did for the 2.6 miles of shoreline along the Corps project. Those 2.6 miles took three years. It was only last month that the last hold-out signed on. “We need to come up with a way to have the permission from the community to come in, get the grant and start restoring the dunes and the beaches to protect their properties, and of course our residents,” al-Khatib said.
The county has been anything but idle. A map of the county’s shoreline overlaid with scheduled or completed emergency and Army Corps dune reparations shows how almost every stretch of beach will get some form of dune restoration. A 1.5-mile stretch at the north end of the county, from MalaCompra Road to Washington Oaks Gardens State Park, was completed in late March for $3.6 million, dumping 50,000 cubic yards of sand. The project was paid for by the Federal Emergency Management Administration and state dollars. That area includes the shore in front of Sea Colony. A 075-mile stretch in front of Washington Oaks was also repaired for $1.8 million,
Repairs along 1.5 miles of Painter’s Hill are ongoing, with 50,000 cubic yards of sand at a cost of $3.8 million. High tides are impeding the work, because erosion has all but eliminated the high-tide beach. Private homes along that stretch are now on a cliff, some of their foundations exposed by erosion, some of their walkovers collapsed. Residents collectively have applied to build a permit and have gotten permission to do so. The county has been helping the property owners “to move these permits as soon as possible,” al-Khatib said.
Two stretches, in Marineland and in the Hammock, are getting reparations starting June 1. A stretch in front of Hammock Dunes is scheduled to be repaired starting June 15. A 1.5-mile stretch around Varn Park will dump 50,000 cubic yards or $3.5 million in state dollars. The date may be delayed for lack of construction easements from property owners along the way.
Further north, a FEMA-eligible project will dump 134,000 cubic yards of sand along 4.9 miles of beach, from MalaCompra Road to the River-to-Sea Preserve. The approximately $12 million cost has not yet been approved, but the county is close, al-Khatib said.
“This slide shows you at this time, we have at least a $80 million available for us to restore our dunes,” al-Khatib said. She listed the numerous local, state and federal agencies that combined to provide the money, which includes $15 million for emergency projects.
“As you know it’s a dynamic system. Today we dump some sand, tomorrow some of it will erode, it will go away. We have no option but to provide a protection for our residents. So we have to do it. All the funding I mentioned, we brought it to Flagler County. It is only eligible for these kinds of activities. Flagler County, if they don’t work hard and get that money and bring it to protect our residents, other communities can take it and use it and help other residents in that area.”MondaymeetingFaithA
There is a certain ex-hold out that should be billed for part of the difference. The delay cost us millions.
It doesn’t matter, it will all be out to sea just a matter of time,
Christian Sezonov says
Flagler Beach is a barrier island. Dune erosion happened long before and will continue long after spending millions of dollars; again and again. One person will not cost anyone millions.
Mother Nature is bending over laughing at the foolishness of men. We enjoyed Flagler Beach for 10 years and appreciate the seawall that was built on the north side.
don miller says
i am against tax payer dollars to buttress private land with homes on it. they shouldn’t have been there to begin with. now we are paying so they can continue to block our access to the beach. we be crazy.
Lance Carroll says
I am guessing that $66 million will be washed away just as fast as $33million…
Let’s just throw $132 million at the next high tide? $264 million? $528million?
Check my math? Even a dumb*$$ like me can add up million$$$$….while I watch the tide come in and out for million$$$$ every 6 hrs. Of course, I am only guessing. It’s not like I pay attention to the change of tide and the height of sand dune…or the slope of sand dune…the vegetation….or the seaweed washing in…
If I was paying attention, I would believe that the seaweed washing ashore is, probably, a good thing….Maybe spend a few million$$$ to cart the seaweed away???
That yucky seaweed is gonna get caught up in the tracks of the machinery used to renourish the duneline….might even bust the hydraulic lines on the machinery and spill hydraulic fuel all over the beach..no worries…the tide will take that away too. For the engineering gurus working on renourishing Flagler Beach, enjoy your Christmas Bonuses…Yikes….a piss ant telling the truth is worth a thousand words.
I’m not surprised with this. I always thought that they said it would cost one price and then when it comes time to either do the project or by the time a project is finished it always comes in a lot higher. Just look at what the new hospital is over budget. Not to mention the next thing they will tell us is we need a parking garage somewhere. As far as the beach repair goes, the cost of sand didn’t go up so the only thing would be fuel and labor cost. Nice way for another government agency like the U.S. Corps of Engineers to screw it to Flagler County.
IMO it has nothing to do with the hold out.
John John says
This is tragic. The sand will just get washed away with the next storm. Instead of seeing the money wash away just think what it could be used for to benefit the LGBQT community. An LGBQT community center would be fabulous. Or a marketing campaign to make Flagler County the east coast capital of the trans community. But no, the money will be used for sand. Just sand that serves no purpose.
Chris Conklin says
This is not tragic tragic would be if somebody died. Grow up if you don’t like the beach don’t come. It is a vital part of the economy in Flagler Beach it’s called maintenance
Last I looked the LGBTQ community is about 7% or so of the population in the US. I don’t see how an LGBTQ community center would benefit the entire community. Why can’t it just be a community center for everyone? Seems a little exclusive. I’m sure it wouldn’t be cool if I suggested a middle age white man community center…
Celia Pugliese says
To our city council, FDOT and county commissioners:
The county and state need to use Rte 100 bridge and not our Hammock Dunes bridge as the county does not pay to repave or maintain our ever deteriorating city roads! We Palmcoaster’s have to fund our roads. and we are already 52 millions short when we pay the county double the ad valorem taxes that we pay our city! The county keeps too much of our ad valorem when is the city to gives us the costlier services like road resurfacing or building. We need are sending this link with complaints to county FDOT and city so they stop abusing our Palm Coast roads to repair the beach front! Those loaded semis need to use Rte 100 or 206 to A1A.
Palm Coast resident since 1991.
Palmcoaster’s valid complaints!:
Palm Harbor-Clubhouse • 23 hr ago •
Dune restoration dump trucks taking sand to Varn Park are degrading our roads, polluting our air and causing traffic delays on our Palm Coast roads and toll bridge. This sand they are dumping will melt like sugar as soon as waves reach it. This sand does nothing to protect the dunes and is purely a very expensive cover up that taxpayers are paying for. They call this Dune Restoration but it does nothing to restore the dunes because it doesn’t protect the dunes. First of all dune sand is different from beach or quarry sand. Dune sand is hard compressed sand that is thousands of years old. Beach sand is fluid and moves with the waves.
This dumping of sand was tried in 2018 after hurricane Mathew and cost over 28 million dollars. What sand was left four years later in 2022 hurricane Ian washed away and more importantly 15’ feet from the face of the dunes. Then a week later hurricane Nicole added to the destruction. We don’t have 15’ feet of dunes left! We need coquina rocks to protect the dunes and coquina rock breakwater’s down the beach to anchor the sand.
The barrier islands must be protected because they protect the mainland. Have our so called experts and politicians learned nothing from recent history. Here they are again this time spending 14 million dollars on sand and wasting our tax dollars. If every ton of sand had been replaced with large Coquina rock or concrete tetrapods I would congratulate them and put up with the dump trucks. Every truck you see is costing us thousands of dollars which is being washed away! Of course the trucking companies and the sand quarries are laughing all the way to the bank!!!
This year 2023 is forecast for another El Nino event meaning the seas will be much warmer. Warmer seas mean stronger hurricanes. Our hurricanes so far could have been much worse and look at the destruction they caused. If we get a strong hurricane running up the coast line our dunes will be penetrated at numerous points between Ponce Inlet and Marineland. With the ocean rushing into the Intercostal we could see our canals 5’ to 7’ feet higher causing widespread flooding.
So let’s protect our dunes with rock and stop throwing our money away on sand that does not work!
John Stove says
No Offense….you have it backwards for an El Nino year…
An El Nino year tends to have fewer storms as the conditions for the formation of hurricanes in the Atlantic are suppressed.
John Stove says
What a total waste of time and our tax dollars! This will keep happening year after year, storm after storm UNTIL they armor the beach with rocks or a break water. Ever try to stop your sand castle from disappearing with each successive wave?….same thing.
Oh yeah…they are using county and city roads that ARE NOT rated for these loads and the asphalt is cracking and buckling and then they will cry about the need for taxpayer funds to fix the roads. I hope they set aside millions of dollars to fix our roads after the project is complete.
Definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over and expect different results!
Witnessed the same type of erosion in Jupiter and Hobe Sound Beaches 40 years ago. You can’t stop it. Erosion won’t abate. It’s a losing proposition. But, keep dumping sand and money on it if it makes you feel like something is being accomplished. Good Luck
The Atlantic Ocean is the most powerful force on the planet. It will do whatever it needs to do. People some time back decided that they could reduce the width of the beach here in Flagler Beach and force the ocean to make do.
It didn’t and won’t ever do so.
Every notice the beach is much wider north and south of us.