Flagler County Administrator Heidi Petito said late this morning that the Florida Department of Transportation had just wired the millions of dollars pledged to the county to cover the county’s share of the cost of the long-awaited U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ beach-reconstruction project in Flagler Beach.
“Great news,” Petito wrote in an email. “We were just informed that the FDOT funds were received by Flagler County this morning. The total required non-fed share amount of $15,740,000 is in process of getting wired to the USACE at this time. We did not have to tap into our Reserves (which was the back-up plan that the Board approved) while we waited for the payment from FDOT.”
Last Monday, the County Commission, at Petito’s request, approved going into the county’s reserves, if necessary, for the $15.7 million, because the state had yet to wire the money and the Corps had set a Jan. 19 deadline, with a few days’ grace period. (See: “County Forced to Approve $15.7 Million Stop-Gap for Dunes’ Army Corps Project, Leaving Reserves Threadbare.”
The Corps is starting the procurement process on Jan. 29, and advertising the bids for the project on Feb. 29. Construction begins in June and end at the end of the year.
The project will extend from North 7th Street to Gamble Rogers State Recreation Area, dumping over 1.5 million cubic yards of sand dredged from a borrow pit almost 11 miles offshore. The result will be broader dunes with more protection for State Road A1A and a visibly wider beach on a stretch of shore that has been recurrently ravaged by storms and tides. But it is only the first of five such “renourishments” scheduled between now and 2068, and it is the only one with funding.
Flagler County was responsible for providing 35 percent of the funding, with the federal government providing the rest. For future phases, Flagler County will be responsible for 50 percent of the cost. That money is not secured.
On Wednesday, at a joint meeting of local governments, Donald O’Brien, the county commissioner, said he would have opposed committing the county to the entire half century of funding. “I philosophically didn’t want to bind a future commission to that commitment,” O’Brien said. “It’s my understanding that those renourishments are optional in terms of if we don’t want to pay for them, then they’re not going to happen, our share. You would think that we do want to, but I think that’s really for a decision for future electeds as time comes. That’s the only reason I would even vote for the contract to begin with.”
The cost of the entire 50-year projected was projected at $100 million as recently as in 2019. But the cost of the initial sand dump is hovering around $35 million. The contract the county signed in 2019 makes clear that if the county were to not provide its cost share in future years, “the Government may suspend or terminate construction of the Project unless the
Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) determines that continuation of such work is in the interest of the United States or is necessary in order to satisfy agreements with other non-Federal interests.” See the contract here.