Last weekend’s nor’easter ripped through Flagler County’s dune structures and caused a lot more damage than originally thought, further weakening the dune line that has steadily been losing sand since it was rebuilt in 2018 for $20 million after Hurricanes Matthew and Irma. On-the-ground surveys and drone videos are documenting the extent of the damage.
“It is a lot of damages out there,” said Faith al-Khatib, Flagler County’s chief engineer, after surveying the damage in person. The survey is ongoing. “It looks basically almost like after Matthew, in some areas maybe 20 percent of the sand we built recently just left. It’s very bad.” The engineer described several areas where the dunes drop off into cliffs, their sand simply sheared off as it had been after Matthew, when parts of the Flagler shore looked like mini cliffs of Dover.
The damage is especially obvious in the northern parts of the county’s shoreline. “Most of these areas, the sand is gone there. I know by Hammock Dunes, by Jungle Hut, by Marineland areas, not much left there. So we got beaten really bad with this storm. We did not finalize the assessment yet.” More areas of damage are still being identified.
In parts of Flagler, it appears the storm carved out even more of the dune system than it had during Matthew. Roger Cullinane in the Hammock sent this in, illustrating the depth of the damage:
A drone video produced by Christopher Goodfellow provides a comprehensive view of the damage:
The damage in Flagler Beach was more limited, with the pier reopening Tuesday morning after it was closed for an inspection following the storm. The county is not seeing the severe dune erosion as a failure: the dunes are doing their job. But doing their job means getting progressively sacrificed. “We knew all of us whatever we did, it was temporary, and we had to come up with a long-term plan, we have to identify our resources, and that’s what we’ve been working on and will continue to work on.”
The rebuilt dunes were nourished with sand trucked in from quarries. The dunes could only be built up to a certain height. In comparison, much wider, more substantial dunes are set to be built in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ beach-rebuilding project funded for 2.6 miles of beach in Flagler Beach. Those dunes are expected to have a life-span of about 10 years.
In conjunction with that project, the county has also secured state funding, through the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Transportation, to rebuild dunes to the same specifications additional mileage. That county-driven project is in two parts. One will go from the south boundary of the Army Corps project all the way to the Volusia County line. The other will go from South 6th Street (the north point of the Corps project) as far north as funding will allow. The county is hoping to reach at least North 19th Street.
All that sand will be dredged from a borrow pit seven miles off shore. The U.S. Department of the Interior has granted permis for all the dredging from a site 10 to 11 nautical miles off shore, according to County Attorney Al Hadeed.
The county plans on carrying out the two stretches of dune-rebuilding simultaneously, al-Khatib said. “That’s our goal, it’ll be much more efficient, much more cost-effective.”
That still leaves some 13 miles of beach that the county’s 2018 project rebuilt, but that now have suffered the successive loss of significant volumes of sand even in routine storms like last weekend’s nor’easter–routine, that is, in previous decades. No longer: with rising seas, such routine storms are taking on far more damaging dimensions when coupled with major tidal events.
The county has not secured funding for those 13 miles. It is becoming obvious, if not critically so, that time is no longer on the county’s side. The county has been working on its beach management plan and will hold a workshop on that in January, when the assessment is expected to figure in the discussion, along with long-term funding options. Federal, state and local funds, along with local, targeted assessments, will all be discussed, al-Khatib said.
Goodfellow also documented the breach at Marineland. This video was taken on Nov. 9:
This afternoon, the county issued the following advisory:
While Flagler’s beaches are open, those accustomed to using walkovers points at some of the coastal parks may have to come up with an alternate plan.
“All of the traditional beach access points are open, but please use caution,” said Parks and Recreation Supervisor Craig Lenniger. “There is a large amount of erosion at the dune lines that could make entering or exiting the beach more difficult than normal. Whether open or closed, visitors will likely see warning signs urging caution.”
Parks without beach access include:
- Bay Drive Park – 30 Bay Drive – the pavilion and park are open, but there is no access to the beach at this location until further notice because of storm damage.
- Jungle Hut Park – 125 Jungle Hut Road – beach crossover is closed until further notice, though the park itself is open.
Parks with full beach access include:
- River to Sea Preserve – 9805 N. Oceanshore Boulevard
- MalaCompra Park – 115 MalaCompra Road
- Old Salt Park – 200 16th Road
- Varn Park – 3665 N. Oceanshore Boulevard
“We want to reiterate the importance of using caution,” Lenniger said. “Last week’s storm took a toll on the beach. There are lots of areas with cliff-like drop offs.”
What’s the status on getting approval for dredging? Thought this was being pursued by Flagler County.
L H says
Considering that our Representative Michael Waltz has voted NO on the recent INFRASTRUCTURE Bill and Governor DeSantis has criticized the $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework this week, alluding to “pork barrel spending” , I would like to know how these two people propose to repair our Dunes without Federal Government Intervention.
IMO they don’t care. Only about ReElection or furthering their Career. The Dunes/Infrastructure will just be another sacrifice they are willing to make. Great point that you brought up in your comment
Biden has no plan to help Florida
you must be kidding
Just like t-rump had not plan to help the Blue States during the trump-virus!!!!
Wrong, New York requested and received an enormous amount of support from Trump, then proceeded to waste it, and kill thousands of elderly by placing sick covid patients in nursing homes.
This will be a never ending battle. Spend millions and billions if you want. Time to face reality. You can dredge, place massive boulders, even pour a wall stretching several miles. In the end, mother nature will take what she wants and thats that. Beach front property…better sell while you still have something left.
Ray W. says
I haven’t read about this in a long time, but decades ago I read of a theory that the east bank of the St. John’s River was once Florida’s coastline, with the soil on which DeLand is built being an offshore dune line that rose from the ocean to form a new coastline. There is a large aquifer recharge area between DeLand and Daytona Beach that was once the ocean seafloor and the Highlands Ridge from Ormond to Port Orange was a dune line that emerged to form a new oceanfront. There is a low-lying stretch of land between the Highlands Ridge to another rise on the west side of the Halifax River on which US-1 is built that was the next oceanfront and then another dune line on the east side of the Halifax River that forms the beachside in Volusia County that is our current oceanfront. There is another underwater land ridge offshore that is forming, but it hasn’t emerged yet. This was theorized some 40 or 50 years ago, and it may no longer be considered good science, but I remember reading about it. This explained the existence of a layer of salt water that exists below the layer of fresh water that we draw from to satisfy our water needs. If too much fresh water is drawn from our aquifer, salt water intrudes into our fresh water supply. When my family hired a well driller in the early 60’s, we got brackish water for our sprinkler system, so that only salt-tolerant plants would thrive in our yard. The article I read caught my attention, as it had some connection to my childhood memories of repeatedly trying and failing to grow watermelons in the sandy beachside soil. The article contained a segment devoted to a Wilber-by-the-Sea area pig farmer who had an artesian well on his land; he allowed the fresh water to flow 24 hours a day for decades from an open pipe, contributing to the depletion of the beachside aquifer.
Lance Carroll says
Am I correct in understanding that the renourished dunes, since Hurricane Matthew, have sustained the most erosion from the most recent Northeast swell, this past weekend? I would have liked to see comparitive photos of Matthew damage as to this last weekend’s damage in this article? I find it difficult to believe that there was even close to comparable erosion/damage, this past weekend, compared to the damage of Hurricane Matthew…. Although, I am not surprised to read, in this article, that the millions of dollars of north county beach renourishment was washed away by a semi typical northeast swell. Go figure? The $50million that so many are begging to spend on “renourishing” Flagler Beach seems , to me, to be the proverbial pig with lipstick. Who would like to watch $50million of lipstick get washed away in a couple northeast swells???? Please raise your hand!
With Republicans blocking everything at everly level, you can truthfully say we are solving shit against the tide.
I watch the snails pace or NO pace of Flagler County when it comes to the Dunes from St Johns/Flagler Cty line south to the Hammock residential area. They have basically done nothing since the aftermath of Matthew. I guess we residents in this area shall see, if the County walks the talk or crawls back into their shell.
Capt Nemo II says
Its a waste of Tax payers money to throw at replenishing the sand on the Beaches. The Sea level is drastically raising higher each year. We have less then 25 years before Flagler Beach will be UNDER WATER.
GET OUT NOW while you can. Buy land out past the Mondex. That will be the next ” Coastal Shoreline” for most of Flagler County. If you really smart, leave Florida and head to the Mountains and buy land and house to leave to your grandkids because the entire coastline of the East will be GONE in 50 years .
Jeff Miller says
I’m with u Nemo.
If you sit at the beach and watch the waves roll in you will see where all the precious beach sand has gone. It all sitting about 75′ offshore in the water. I go to Ft. Meyers beach every year and about every 7-8 years they pump all the sand that was taken offshore by storms and just everyday waves back onto the beach. Plus all the sand that drifted back behind the island. It gives them all that beach frontage back plus nice beach sand, not that crap they put down last time. Pretty soon the actual beach will be 75′ offshore but we will have to swim out to it from A1A. 20 Million dollars NOT well spent. Who would go to Flagler Beach when you have nice beach sand and plenty of space just south of us.
I have roof damage and a giant “dried” wet spot on the ceiling of one of my spare bedrooms. The roof of my lanai lifted up and something hit my screen ripping a hole in it. Yeah. Fun times. All Matthew did was knock part of my maple onto my fence causing a dent. Whoopee.
Craig McCoffey says
Wait! You mean to tell me the garbage you imported from keystone heights didn’t stay on the dune when the wind and waves got a little high…? I am shocked. Absolutely flabbergasted. Who could have guessed?
Guess we should bond another 30 million to import garbage that isn’t naturally available on the shoreline. Maybe that will hold this time around…FDOT are you listening???
Bill C says
What is it called when doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results?
Waste of time money energy resources You can’t save the coast from itself. Mother Nature taking over
Willy Boy says
Great videos! Another dramatic sight is the exposed coquina rock off the River to Sea boardwalk.
Rick Scott and Marco Rubio have jointly filed a bill that will shut down the Federal Flood Insurance Program. I think they want to force all the people out of the coastal areas so they and their buddies can buy the coastline on the cheap.
WILLIAM NELSON says
NOT TRUE: They are wise enough to realize that “you can’t fool (or fool with) Mother Nature.
You really need to go re-read that. https://www.fairfound.org/2021/10/14/25-of-infrastructure-under-flood-risk-in-30-years-fema-wants-input-on-standards/
Hurricane Matthew breached the dunes in many places and flooded some coastal homes. My wife and I kayaked over some of the streets in our neighborhood on Sunday after Matthew. This recent Nor’easter damaged the dunes in the Hammock residential area, but did not breach the dunes. As the sea levels rise, the dunes will either retreat or need to be replenished. A one inch sea level rise results in about a one foot dune retreat (depending on the beach slope). “Scientists with the Intergovernmental Project on Climate Change predict that global sea level will rise between 0.3 and 1 meter by 2100.” (https://ocean.si.edu/through-time/ancient-seas/sea-level-rise)
At the middle level of expected sea level rise, a 2 foot (0.6 meter) rise will result in not just more coastal flooding, but the dunes will retreat by 20 or more feet unless repeatedly refurbished with sand. Old aerial photos of the dune line compared with those of today show this is an ongoing process and not something new.
We build, mother nature come and tear down. Why build so close to the beach, mother nature will always win. Someone said Biden will not help FLA. Did Trump help FLA? A better question is what has DeSantis done for the state?
Not another dime should be spend on dune restoration. Let Mother Nature takes it course.
Vance Hoffman says
I find it hard to believe that the banks are loaning hundreds of millions of dollars to people buying and building homes and hotels, condo’s on the shore all over the united states to know that in 25 years it’s all gone due to rising sea levels. Most loans are 30 year notes on homes. Call me crazy.