It is the first step in what would be a significant re-definition of the county’s beaches, and it cost $250,000. Yet the manner in which the county commission discussed and approved the sizable appropriation today was remarkably opaque.
County government wants to re-designate its 12 miles of rebuilt dunes as a “Flood Protection and Wildlife Preservation facility.” The county hasn’t drafted the the legal paperwork yet, but County Attorney Al Hadeed said the designation would not harm property rights or values and would incorporate the recreational aspect of the beaches in the new designation.
To that end, the county commission this afternoon approved spending $250,000 for engineering work that will establish the so-called “erosion control line” to delineate the new designation.
Commissioners discussed the matter only verbally at a previous meetings, and in one-on-one discussions with the county administrator. Commissioners had not a single written document to back-up the expenditure or to present to the public for inspection, either before or after the meeting, nor clarity about what the money will pay for other than “engineering.” The administration later provided a reporter one document–an agreement between the county and Flagler Beach on dune-rebuilding, but that agreement controls only the rebuilding in the city, not the 12 miles of beach today’s appropriation addresses.
Commissioners heard only a vague statement by County Administrator Jerry Cameron about the source of the $250,000 appropriation: “Revenues from partnerships or agreements with people on the coast that stem from attempts to control beach erosion, so it’s like money being applied to a like project,” he said. “It is coming from a source that has a direct nexus to what it will be used for.” Commissioners did not ask for further details. John Brower, the county’s finance director, did not return a call. In a text, Cameron deferred questions to a spokesperson.
The spokesperson this evening clarified: the money is taken from “reimbursements” from private property owners–from Hammock Beach Club, Hammock Dunes and Ocean Hammock. The reimbursements were for part of the $20 million the county spent in 2018 and early 2019 to rebuild 12 miles of dunes, though it boasted doing so at $8 million under its original budget, and the agreements behind those expected reimbursements were based on that original project.
The purpose behind the redesignation, which must yet got through numerous steps, is to more easily tap into federal dollars and pay for three times as much sand on dunes as the county dumped on those 12 miles of dunes. Funding from the Federal Emergency Management Administration could be accessed “under much less onerous rules,” Commissioner Greg Hansen said, “so I think it behooves us as a county to get our entire beach built up to protect our citizens and their homes.”
Some 10 months ago, Flagler County government announced it had completed the rebuilding of 12 miles of dunes carved out by Hurricanes Matthew, Irma and an unnamed storm in 2016 and 2017. The $20 million project was paid for with federal, state and local dollars, including revenue from an increase in the local tourism sales surtax and money from the three homeowner associations.
The “sacrificial dunes,” as the county refers to them–they are intended to be a buffer to keep ocean waters from flooding the barrier island– were rebuilt with just 6 to 8 cubic yards of sand per linear foot of beach. The federal project about to begin rebuilding 2.6 miles of Flagler Beach’s dunes will dump three times that much–about 23 cubic yards of sand per foot, or a total of 350,000 cubic yards over the 2.6 miles.
The legislature and the governor must approve the re-designation. (Hansen will be lobbying state government to secure the designation.) There’s no guarantee that either will. There’s less guarantee that the county will find federal dollars to further rebuild its dunes: it took Flagler Beach and the county more than a decade and a half to go through the steps necessary to qualify for the federal beach-rebuilding project that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers begins next year in Flagler Beach, and to secure the $17 million dollars just for its first phase–and just for 2.6 miles of beach. The county signed an agreement with the Corps that has Flagler on the hook for at least $50 million of that project’s cost over the next few decades, even though the county has no idea how it will afford the bill, which is certain to grow. (The county can always bail from the agreement, but that means the Corps will abandon the periodic rebuilding of the beach, expected to take place every 11 years.)
“Once that’s done,” Hansen said of the designation, “then the bigger problem, the next problem, is actually come into funding to do the beach, and that means this opens the door to go to the feds.” In other words, the county also has no idea how it will pay for the additional 12 miles of dune-strengthening north of Flagler Beach, even if it gets the new designation–or how it would afford periodic renourishments on that scale, every decade, when it is already on the hook for upward of $10 million every decade in Flagler Beach. Those issues were not raised today.
“I don’t think the money is going to be there,” Commission Chairman Dave Sullivan said after the meeting. “The amount of sand would be incredible. Incredible.”
Commissioner Donald O’Brien was concerned about the re-designation’s impact on private property.
“Is there any danger of us degrading someone’s property rights that are in this area,” he asked the county attorney.
“It would obviously depend on how it’s drafted,” Hadeed said. “But the way we would draft it initially is not to encroach on those right, essentially relying on our customary use designation that already exists by ordinance.” The county commission, behind Hadeed’s urging, last year passed an ordinance that ratifies the “customary use” of segments of private beaches by the public along the county’s shore. Private property extends to the high-tide waterline. But it has been customary for that private property to be used by the public over the years. The ordinance preserves that use and anticipated a state law that gave property owners new rights to restrict access.
“This does not take away any land owners’ property rights that extend out to the high water line, or the erosion control line,” Hansen said of Flagler’s planned re-designation.
O’Brien was assured that once Hadeed has the re-designation legal work drafted, the commission will get to “vet it and understand it and think through it,” in O’Brien’s words. Presumably, the documents will, this time, be included in the commission’s back-up material for public inspection as well.
Mark Peterson says
The county had better be extremely more transparent if it wants to avoid costly legal fees….this action will be remembered and the citizens of the county will be reminded of this action come election time….
CB from PC says
Keep pissing away the money on these “projects”. Take a trip up to Cape Hatteras sometime to see the
“value” in spending 10s of millions.
Hell, the County and City of Palm Coast can’t even keep the trees trimmed or taken out for access to their utility easements. Instead, they have to hope for an adjacent vacant lot where they can drive heavy equipment through private property without permission.
FIX my ROADS, put up street lights, stop development for the sake of it. Have a plan………………
The Atlantic ocean is the greatest force of nature on the planet and it will do whatever it has to do to maintain itself. The 30 million dollar boulders debacle that was last decade’s solution was a colossal failure with many of the boulders on their way to Casablanca.
The Flagler Beach pier has been repaired half dozen times in the 30 years we’ve been here, the last time after Irma it cost $900,000.00 free federal money aka tax payer funds. Now another $10,000,000.00 is on deck to be spent moving it south a short distance where it will continue to wreck havoc on the ocean’s plan to wipe out any puny impediments like roads and buildings in its way to creating the beach it needs to fit its needs.
Our FB commission in on board with another pie-in-the-sky plan to fix the beach – this time the cost is $100,000,000.00 – for those of you who went to school after the 60’s that’s one hundred million U.S. dollars — if you’re a tax payer, that’s your money. This is on top of the $30,000,000.00 of our money already being spent on moving sand from the ocean floor to the beach.
Venice, Italy has been fighting the Mediterranean sea for centuries and haven’t won any battles. The sea is winning and will eventually wipe out man’s puny efforts to contain it. The Atlantic is vastly more powerful. The only way to stop this foolishness is to co-exist on its terms and let the ocean ebb and flow as it must.
Alphonse Abonte says
Need to pass a law that anyone builds on/close to the water is responsible for their own survival/erosion. We should not be held liable for natures fury. It is like the county paying for my lawn care because the insects here in Florida ate my grass. Stupid is as, as stupid does.
Kind of like those idiots in California who build in fire areas of California, right? I grew up there, on the beach, decades ago. Those beaches are still there. People who live in these areas DO pay higher premiums for living there. Did you know that?
I support the Commissioners approach.
Taking this action will allow for Federal Funds to help save our beach.
The beach is the greatest asset that the county has !
Beach replenishment is done at many beaches up north with great success.
Denali 94 says
First let me say that I love our beaches and still mourn the changes and losses from Matthew. No part of what I say here should be construed as I do not care about the islands, I do. But, being a structural engineer responsible for the design and construction of many large buildings, I am forced to look at this issue from a cold and factual point of view.
Several governmental agencies from the fed all the way to little Flagler Beach are trying to, as stated by Commissioner Hansen, “to get our entire beach built up to protect our citizens and their homes.” To do this, we are building “sacrificial dunes, as the county refers to them–they are intended to be a buffer to keep ocean waters from flooding the barrier island”.
Barrier Islands? What do we know about these? The National Park Service says this, “Change is constant on these islands. Over time barrier islands move, erode, and grow again as ocean currents and wind gradually shape the seashore.” By its very nature, a barrier island is going to move, erode and rebuild. It is Mother Natures way of protecting the mainland, providing estuaries for all sorts of flora and fauna and assuring a balance of nature between the open ocean and the mainland. A study of the past locations of Matanzas Inlet would be a good example of how these islands move. These islands are nothing more than sand. They have no foundation or bearing to hold them in place. They will move. No amount of sacrificial dunes are going to “keep ocean waters from flooding the barrier island”, eventually nature will win.
And then there is the elephant in the room – global warming. Believe in it or not, the facts are that polar ice sheets are melting, glaciers are receding, sea levels are rising. Various sources say that our area will experience a 15″ to 19″ rise by 2050, this is above the 1997 base year. They also state that we are just now entering into the period of rapid rise giving estimates of 12″ to 15″ above today’s levels. Is this being addressed in the 50 year replenishment plan?
So on one hand we have men throwing money and sand on an island that Mama Nature designed to be flexible and mobile, who do you think is holding the better hand? The day will come when every structure on the islands we know today will be gone. Who is responsible to the property owners? With no disrespect for those who live and work on the island, it is not the taxpayers responsibility to protect your property. You probably have hurricane insurance and hopefully flood insurance. Your premiums are not based on taxpayer funded protections for your house. You built or bought there, just as I built and still own a house in tornado alley. We both paid our money and now we both take our chances.
I moved to Alaska about 15 years after the ’64 earthquake. That earthquake was still a vivid memory for many residents. In Anchorage after they cleared the demolished homes, they declared that area off-limits to future construction, even called it Earthquake Park. Fifty some years later, those old-timers had died off or were simply discounted as kooks and with no one to stop them, folks started building on the east end of the quake zone. Just over a year ago, that area was hit with 7.0 quake. A far cry from the 9.2 of 1964 but enough to get folks attention – and those new houses? Gone. Building or buying in harms way is a personal choice and not one where you should rely on the taxpayer to bail you out when the ‘big one’ hits.
That’s a well thought out comment right there, and I appreciate it. For additional reading see New Orleans, re: Katrina.