Flagler Beach residents at the south end of town are getting no breaks. There was Hurricane Matthew’s shredding of State Road A1A in 2016, Hurricane Irma’s added erosion in 2017, road reconstruction this year, and now beach reconstruction set for next year.
Residents filled half the seats at the Government Services Building’s chambers earlier this week to hear explanations of, and ask questions about, the pending makeover along 2.6 miles, as the dunes are rebuilt with 550,000 cubic yards of sand dredged and piped in from a bar 10 miles offshore. The dunes will rise 19 feet, covering up the rock revetments in place now (not removing them) and creating a 40-foot berm that slopes down to the beach. The sand will naturally erode, re-exposing the rocks over time.
Concerns focused on the length of the project, its effects on dune walk-overs, on private property, on turtles and other living organisms along the beach (some of which will be obliterated), on cost and future such “renourishments,” should the dunes fail again.
“The whole purpose of this project is to avoid any kind of detriment that you saw to A1A after Matthew,” Project Manager Jason Harrah said. “We’re putting this dune out there to sacrifice itself when those waves come.”
The $17 million project is the culmination of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project a decade and a half in the works. It will be the first of a projected five such renourishments over the next 50 years, at a cost estimated today at $100 million. That cost is almost certain to rise: it has nearly tripled since the project was first conceptualized. In 2013, the federal government pegged the total cost of the identical project at $39 million. The following year, the cost had risen to $44 million.
Flagler County government will be responsible for half the cost of future “renourishments.” For the first renourishment next year, the federal government is paying 65 percent of the cost, leaving Flagler County responsible for 35 percent. The county got a $6 million grant from the state Department of Transportation to cover that burden. But Flagler has not lined up funding sources for future renourishments. Those details were not part of the discussion at U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hearing.
The hearing’s scope was limited to the corps’ responsibilities, the timelines and breadth of the project and its impact on the beaches. Strictly speaking, it was a hearing on the “Erosion Control Line,” a technical term that delineates the zone on the beach that is public from the zone that is privately owned. Most beaches have such a line, as does the entire length of the project in Flagler Beach. The project is going to change the line, essentially adding 60 to 70 feet to the public size. The corps will be acquiring a so-called “perpetual” easement.
“That grants somebody that lives in Oklahoma that’s paying federal tax dollars of this money that the administration provided us, they have that right to go sit on the dry portion of the beach,” Harrah said. “They can’t sit on the dune, but on your property, they have the right to put a chair down, read a book, because they’ve used their tax dollars to build a beach.”
But in fact “there really is no private ownership in the sense that you can put up a fence and say no trespassing, coming up from the beach,” County Attorney Al Hadeed said. Flagler Beach confirmed the “customary use of the beach” by the public with an ordinance in 2018, as did the county. That makes the erosion control line in Flagler Beach more of a technicality.
The private walkovers are not part of that customary use. There are 42 walk-overs in the project area, many of them private. They won’t be necessarily covered over by sand, but corps officials left it unclear whether the walkovers will be usable at all times. They said the walkovers would be packed with sand, with sand over the steps to some extent, making them possibly impassable, at least for a few months. Over time, the sand will naturally erode, re-exposing the walkovers.
Plans and permits are to be completed by Jan. 17, the contracts advertised through the end of February and awarded at the end of March. Construction would start in mid-May and end in December 2020. Harrah said the contractor would cover 500 feet of beach per day. That made no sense to some in the audience, since at that rate the project would be completed in a matter of weeks, not months. But the disparity remained unexplained beyond Harrah saying that nothing stops the contractor, who will be working 24 hours a day, from finishing the project months in advance.
“Flagler Beach is very fortunate to have this project. This is one of 28 projects we have in the state of Florida,” Harrah said.
One resident raised concerns about the type of sand that will be dredged in. It will not be the rust-colored coquina sand that gives Flagler’s beaches their distinctive character. “It will look strikingly different at the time of construction,” Engineering Consultant Chris Creed said. “But through time there will be a blending of this material that will adjust more back to the natural conditions as more coquina shell begins migrating on shore.” He conceded that some living organisms in the coquina sand will be obliterated, but then will “repopulate” over time.
The project ends at South 28th Street. But the county has plans to continue an identical project, on its own dime (with state grant dollars) south of 28th.
Should there be a named storm that devastates the dunes again, with the area declared as a federal disaster area, the federal government will pay for 100 percent of the repairs to that segment of beach. But in case of lesser storms that damage the beach, Flagler County government would have to assume 50 percent of the cost of repairs, the same proportion the county must pay in expected major renourishments every 10 to 12 years.
The first big Tropical Storm or Noreaster will wash it away
Susan weber says
I agree. Not dredging any beach so the water has some place to go is useless.
Concerned Citizen says
The act of doing something over and over again and expecting different results.
This is the price you pay for wanting to live by the beach and have nice beaches. You spend millions of dollars trying to hold the ocean back. The dunes won’t stop ocean levels when they rise. Nor will they stop impacts from a direct hit. Which so far we’ve been lucky.
Eventually mother nature will win and claim that beach back.
Aloke Bose says
In my humble view, I think the US Corp of Engineers should consider dredging the Intracoastal Waterway and use this sand to rebuild the Ocean front Dunes-damage.
This will deepen the shallow Intracoastal and increase water carrying capacity, thus reduce flooding. And, the sand so obtained can be used to strengthen the Coast line.
What a disgusting display of leadership to allow this dredging to happen.
Any grade school child can use common sense to defy the idea of putting sand on the beach that already washed away. And guess what will happen agian?
Goodbye beautiful Flagler beach and hello refurbished Flagler!
Is St Augustine doing this?
Believe it or not,… They are the reason why r beachez have lasted as long as they have, partially the reason why we hav coquina. They were always dredging and replenishing. Tho a lot ended up here. Their shell always washed away here 2 the south. Just a lot of the white n sparkles r from the Appalachian mtns. The sea gives and it takes. Leave the icw alone. 1/2 a million yards sounds like a very small amt compared to what was lost in 2004. I remember that from the bottom of the w/c ramp @ the pier it was about a 6-8 ft drop after the storms. ( from the bottom of the ramp being in the sand to a drop off of 6′ to the sand).
My question is simple…. Y can’t we put staggered old telephone poles down in between the rocks, w/ ss wire running thru them. Plus all the palm frans that r cutt around, mash them between the rocks. That with the sand would fill all the voids, creating a sound solid infrastructure to help provent the erosion, but help retain the return of the dune. Also creating a very small imprint. Oak Island did it with coconut fibers hundreds (500+) years ago. We can do better is what I’m saying! You tried 1″ steel at the topaz. <10 yr BS fix. Common yall! Japan uses 6' jacks (like the game) outa concrete, and its working. Y'all can't save 6 mi of FB with how many millions of $$$$$, when the had a couple hundred people and a lil bit of time to reshape a island the same size a couple of times??? Degression/ Regression moving 4ward. Lmao
CB from PC says
In the 1970s, The Outer Banks of North Carolina had wide beaches with vegetation covered sand dunes. Oregon Inlet was always a dredging effort.
Who knows how many 100s of millions of tax money has been spent.
Heavy Nor’Easter or Hurricane and replenishment gone.
Rodanthe and NC 12 in Kitty Hawk were barely out of the Atlantic when I last visited in 2016…on a clear day.
This project is a lot of money for a “1 hurricane pony”.
When and why did these walkovers become privately owned? These folks do not own the beach and it is public right of way, as far as I know. As for the restoration, I tend to agree with the comment about dredging the Intracoastal or the other comment from Honky Dude who had better ideas than the Corp of Engineers! Let’s just keep tapping the citizens dollars and the County to keep getting Grant’s for useless fixes!!! Not a brain in the bunch. This includes the County Commissioners, Corp of Engineers and the FDOT!!! This has been an issue longer than I have been alive which is over 50 yrs. Make some decisions that will be real solutions and not these bandaid fixes!!!
The “private” walkovers are owners that have Riprian Rights. You pay a lot of money for it and you own to the mean high water line.
Sandbar 10 miles offshore??? There’s an inlet just north that needs dredging. Start dredging Matanzas inlet to support Flagler Beach erosion. PLEASE!
Matanzas = St Johns County. There were dredging in the inter coastal 3 weeks ago.
The beach side is the HEART of our whole county. Without it this county would be next to nothing. It is the driving economic force here. Beach RE-nourishment should be a priority.
Willy Boy says
The “98 easements from private residents.” What if they don’t go for it? Loss of integrity of the dune an earlier article stated. The “distinctive flavor” is the color of the sand, or is it the fact you can see the ocean as you drive. Vegetation will block that.
Looks like a bunch of “Monday Morning QB’s” posting. Instead of voicing your frustrations here, go to the meetings and confront your elected officials face to face.
Save Palm Coast says
Amen, this should have been done years ago. Everywhere I lived dredging was done every 5-10 years. This works at everyone of these location. The alternative to do nothing is not the answer. I just wish they would do all the way up to St. John’s county line.