This is not what residents of Flagler Beach–or Flagler County–want to hear, certainly not after huge and alarming carve-out of sand and dunes north of the pier in the last two weeks: anecdotal speculation to the contrary, much of that sand is not coming back. Not unless documented erosion trends of the last 49 years, or documented acceleration of erosion in the past 10, is to reverse course.
Flagler County’s 18 miles of beaches have lost 3.6 million cubic yards of sand since 1972. Almost a third of that loss has occurred in the last 10 years, an indication of how much faster erosion and sea level rise are carving out the barrier island. The state Department of Environmental Protection has declared 45 percent of Flagler County’s shoreline critically eroded.
Those are the findings of the most comprehensive beach-management study to date in Flagler County, a 174-page document produced by Jacksonville’s Olsen Associates for Flagler County government and its engineering department. The document is a preface to the county’s moves toward a long-awaited, long-delayed beach management plan. Consultants are presenting the results of their study to the County Commission on Monday morning.
Those results paint a stark picture of the consequences of climate change and sea level rise, consequences that are not only irreversible for now, but that are on an accelerating course. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) projects an average increase of one foot along the east coast over the next 30 years–equivalent to the same level of sea rise over the previous hundred years, the study states.
“Future climate change and the associated acceleration in the Mean Sea Level (MSL) will increase storm surge levels, which in turn will exacerbate coastal erosion and flooding/inundation of low-lying areas,” the study finds. Sea level rise “will additionally adversely affect the performance, benefits and feasibility of beach nourishment projects. Specifically, an increase in the mean water level will contribute to shoreline recession and increase the sand loss rate from the beach.”
The study’s results will shock, depress and bewilder: the amount of sand lost, and that continues to erode, is colossal and relentless, and the costs to merely slow down the erosion at least for the next half century are crushing.
Unlike Volusia and St. Johns County, which have long had beach-management divisions and beach-management plans, Flagler County has neither, and is only relatively recently getting around to developing a beach-management plan. Hurricanes Matthew, Irma and Dorian accelerated the urgency. Flagler County, in other words, may be playing catch-up on a slow-building catastrophe of the last decades that has it far behind, and in a place from which it will have difficulties recovering. The required repairs the study outlines are momentous, the costs are prohibitive, potentially leaving the county looking for piecemeal fixes yet again or being tempted to further kick the can down the road yet again.
The county’s capacity to execute approved and ready-to-go beach-management plans are not encouraging: after preparation that took a decade and a half, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was ready to go nearly two years ago with a beach-renourishment plan on 2.6 miles of beach south of the Flagler Beach pier, from South 6th Street to South 28th Street. That plan has been hung up by property owners, now down to one, who refused to sign easements–not to give up their shoreline property, but merely to allow the Corps to dump sand there and rebuild dunes. Those property owners refused to sign the easements intended to save their properties, and one of them still does, still delaying the project, which may not start until next June, if then. The Corps has threatened to pull the funding: other communities can use it.
It’s in that context that the Olsen study now lands. Its consultants presented an interim report last February. Detailed as that presentation was, it lacked the comprehensiveness of the final report.
The study analyzes sand loss over the 18 miles of Flagler’s shore up to April 2021 only, so in that regard it’s already a little out of date, because there’s been significant loss since. The study proposes a series of solutions–not to stop the erosion, but to slow it down, and only for the next 50 years. It outlines where and how the beaches can (or must) be re-sanded, or re-nourished. The study, in its grimmest passages, projects towering costs to local taxpayers, even after partnerships with federal and state funding sources are taken into account, to carry out the needed beach management.
The study describes that cost as “the probable order of magnitude financial responsibility of the local community to implement a comprehensive beach management program.” In actual dollar figures, that translates to total annual costs of $7.9 million to $15.9 million, in today’s dollars, with Flagler County’s responsibility–after potential federal and state dollars are taken into account–ranging from between $5.5 million to $13.1 million per year, depending on the approach the county chooses. Olsen is proposing six different approaches, or options. None is cheap.
“The initial cost to construct the first five alternative concepts ranges from $70.5 [million] to $137.7” million, the study states in one of its starkest bullet points. The initial cost means only the very first phase of the 50-year renourishment. “Existing Federal, State and [Florida Department of Transportation] funding as well as existing costshare opportunities from the State (for Critically Eroded shorelines and State Parks) can provide between 28% and 42% of the initial cost. To accommodate the remaining balance, Flagler County would need to consider funding opportunities within the county.”
So even if federal and state dollars account for 28 to 42 percent of the cost, that leaves Flagler County taxpayers responsible for anywhere from $41 million to $98.6 million of the cost just for the first phase, with expected additional phases every decade or so, going by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ timeline: those dunes will continue to erode. “An acceleration in sea level rise (SLR), assuming currently accepted USACE Intermediate project for future sea level rise,” the study states, using the acronym for the Army Corps of Engineers, “will increase the sand demand volume and corresponding cost. The USACE Intermediate SLR projection would increase the total required maintenance sand volume by 22%, from 6.9 [million cubic yards] to 8.4” million cubic yards.
“This would apply to initial construction, as well as future periodic nourishment events,” the study states. “Funding vehicles such as loans, bonds, etc. may be required to cover expenses at the time of a construction event and repaid over time using revenue from cost-sharing opportunities and a local funding source.”
Already, as County Attorney Al Hadeed is cautioning, the required sand for the 2.6 miles of the Army Corps project has now doubled, from 500,000 cubic yards to 1 million cubic yards, because of recent, pronounced erosion. The County Commission has yet to contend with those added costs. The Corps project was approved and funded based on several-years-old sand needs. That’s just on 14 percent of the county’s shoreline.
At least finding sand is not an issue. The county has secured access to a federal borrow pit 11 miles offshore (called Area 3) that contains 43 million cubic yards of sand, about four times the amount “needed to construct and maintain” the county’s dune system, if it were to adopt the most extensive restoration approach. The proportion of sand available drops as the effects of sea level rise are taken into account, since more will be needed. The alternative is sand mined from onshore sources. Those are 60 to 120 miles away from Flagler, the study states.
The study projects partnerships with federal and state agencies, such as the one tempering the costs of the Army Corps project in Flagler Beach. But those partnerships will be limited both by available dollars and other communities competing for those dollars, leaving the county responsible for a significant share. The county’s funding sources are already leveraged. The tourism sales surtax tax may be maxed out at 5 percent, although that’s not definitive. Using its portion devoted to beach management “is not expected to be sufficient to support the requirements of a beach management program without significant impacts to the other existing tourist development activities within Flagler County,” the study finds.
The county’s property tax rate is twice that of Palm Coast’s, and there is no appetite for higher taxes or a taxing district, the beach being considered a community-wide asset, not just an amenity for beach-side residents. Yet the county will have to find a revenue source if it is to enact the beach-management plan even in scaled back form. The study includes various forms of special taxing districts, a sales surtax and bonds–loans, which would nevertheless have to be backed by dedicated revenue–as funding mechanisms.
“This highlights the essential need for Flagler County to establish a dedicated source of local funding regardless of project scope and/or project cost-sharing opportunities,” the study states.
That’s one of the principal recommendations the study outlines. The first is to establish a “comprehensive approach to beach and dune management,” with the county assuming “governance over all 18 miles of shoreline and assum[ing] the position as Local sponsor and administrative head for all beach management activities in Flagler County,” as it effectively has already in many regards. Other recommendations include surveying the extent of coquina rock outcroppings at the north end of the county’s shoreline, outcroppings that cannot be simply covered up in sand, as they are a protected feature of the shore, and to study the feasibility of sand-delivery method.
Then come implementation steps: seeking easements along all 18 miles of the shoreline, picking the specific renourishment option out of the half dozen Olsen is outlining (the differences are of breadth and cost), and attempting to expand both the state designation of Flagler’s critically eroded shoreline, up from 45 percent, and to expand the U.S. Army Corps’ project area from Flagler Beach, both of which would lessen local costs–should state and federal dollars be available. Curiously, the recommendations leave silent public input, town-hall meetings, hearings and the like, though the study’s scope is rigorously scientific and prescriptive only in those regards. Politics and policy are left to the commissioners, who hold a workshop on the study at 9 a.m. Monday.
20220815_Flagler County BM (1)
Dennis C Rathsam says
If I was a betting man …I think Mother Nature has wone,Like Humprey Dumpfrey…. U cant put the pieces back togeather again! Well I guess U can BUT…. whats the cost? It was nice while it lasted.
Rep. Bob Good, Republican from Virginia today on the House floor:
“There is no climate crisis. It is a hoax.”
It matters how you vote.
Korean. Vet says
Years ago when the county was dumping sand into the beaches at a cost of approx 30 M I told Comm Hanson that jetties is the only way to go , (he told me he knew what he was doing ) obviously he doesn’t know. sh$$*T about erosion of beach front property …. in 1958 I bought my first ocean front home in Westhamton Beach NY and over 10 Years i
purchased 3 more . I tell you this because I saw my homes prone to loss when they would wash into the beautiful ocean in another hurricane. The army Corp of engineers came in after many meetings with state reps and they suggested JETTIES … they put in the jetties and today those properties I owned are still standing also the beach have doubled in depth and the dunes are fantastic ….
flagler county should look into that history and mov toward correcting the property we love (stop putting
bandages on a major problem before its tooooo late.
The cost cited in the comment above is roughly twice what the actual cost was.
Yes but, like a seawall you’d spend the money once not every couple of years.
Steve Robinson says
As a former Long Islander, I can tell you that you’re only half-right. The ACE, back in the early 1960s, decided that jetties were the solution for LI beaches. So they started building jetties toward the eastern end of LI, as you note. But they didn’t figure on the “littoral drift,” which is from east to west. What they learned the hard way is that sand indeed piles up on the eastern side of a jetty, but is gouged out on the other (western) side. They realized that for the jetty plan to work they would have to build jetties from Montauk to the Rockaways and Coney Island (Sea Gate, actually). Needless to say, this was cost prohibitive, so they simply stopped. The result was that a few lucky communities in the Hamptons saw their beaches grow, while communities to the west suffered. As far as jetties for the Flagler beaches, keep in mind that Long Island runs west to east, not north-south. The impact of jetties might be totally different in Florida.
Trying to explain the absurdity of globull warming to the easily fooled is akin to trying to make a 12 year old child who still believes in Santa Claus it’s time to top believing in him.
It’s impossible to talk reason to someone who is too old to believe Santa comes down a chimney or to a childlike adult who believes this group of thieves, hucksters and despots can control the weather by taking your cash away from you.
Their “computer models” have all been debunked, and their “reports” have as much or less credibility than a letter sent to the North Pole for Santa.
jeffery c. seib says
I hope the residents of Flagler County spend a moment looking over this report. I hope the recommendations are not too little too late. One major storm barreling by us offshore could leave us with no beach! I have been trying to get Palm Coast to wake up to the fact that climate change and sea level rise is real, and we are in the crosshairs of a potential catastrophe of flooding and historic insured property losses. The current city council seems like they don’t understand it so don’t want to hear it and the city staff has buried my reports from 2019 to the present because they don’t want to upset the developer’s apple cart. People should know this is real!
Andy Dufresne says
Stark reality check, again, on the eve when not a single member of the Deplorable Party voted in favor of the latest climate related bill. They not only want to burn down the country, they’re content with taking down humanity.
Deborah Coffey says
Perfectly stated. We will not survive the continual LYING from the right wing. No country can. No people can.
So very true. We must vote these climate change deniers out.
Andy: I know. What’s mind boggling is that they act as if they don’t have children or grandchildren. Money here and now. Well, maybe this is the future of human kind, and we have our limits. The Earth will go on fine without us. We are just a blip in time. Sad to watch it happen, though, when it wasn’t necessary.
Except fetuses – they care very deeply about fetuses. Actual “post-born” people? Not so much.
The report is bogus, nothing to do with the hoax climate change. When a1a was originally put in 1885 it was merely a trail. You can’t expect a trail 75 feet from waters edge to be stable. Look at Daytona, almost 450 feet from the water with zero problems. If you are serious about fixing the problem move a1a back 300 feet!!! Done deal!
Daytona has it’s problems, growing up in the 1970’s & 80’s at the Northeast end of Daytona Beach Shores. The water of high tides & storm surge would come up and onto the asphalt of the Botefuhr Beach approach. That’s not the only example, one can go all the way to Ponce Inlet and the beach approach gets tidal & storm surge, has been that way for decades. Considering that is an asphalt paved dune beach access point for a toll booth, it’s about as close to A1A as what the photos indicate the pier has eroded to. Not all of Volusia Counties beaches are hundreds of yards deep. Ormond Beach North of Granada Blvd and that’s about where it turned into Ormond By The Sea and un-driveable.
Basically Granada was the last beach entry until you get to St John’s county. North of Granada to St John’s side of Matanzas Inlet to Crescent Beach Park. Can’t drive on the beach at Washington Oaks. But I do agree with you on A1A erosion being a non-issue prior to it rerouting to the coastline. A1A basically routes to the Matanzas River and you really can’t see either the intracoastal or beach/ocean until you get to the boat launch at Bing’s Landing/Mala Compra Park. As HS aged kids we surfed South side of Matanzas Inlet (Flagler County side) in the mid to late 1970’s basically parking on the asphalt roads that were eroding in the 1980’s & 1990’s.
Let it go already, taxing the entire county into poverty is nonsense. Enjoy what beach is there. It was built where it is and lasted this long. That beach head has served it’s useful life. This is for the tourism aspect of Flagler Beach. I get tourism taxation pays for quite a bit of what the county has. This area can’t continue to grow, yet it has to. Growth for more tax dollars, Growth will also contribute to the pollution of the environment. If the Federal Government isn’t rebuilding the coastline to protect A1A, the taxpayers of Flagler County shouldn’t either. That’s just where I stand on it. It just never seems to end, if it isn’t more schools, an FCSO facility, a Tennis Center expansion, a pool crisis, a splash pad crisis. A lot of this was unnecessary. And it all starts in DC with the Biden Build Back Better that is nothing more than a population explosion that destroys the planet. On one hand they have the Green New Deal, but they defeat that cause with the population growth. Charging everyone more is just stupid. The politician(s) that show up with that after getting elected, is out the first/next opportunity to vote that one out. Enough is enough already. The beach is eroding, collecting $ 15 million more isn’t going to stop that fact. Because the next storm or even what we’re watching here takes what was replenished & more. The problem isn’t just Flagler County, isn’t just the Eastern Coast of FL, it’s the entire coastline of the USA. Game over, charging all of us a higher admission price to watch the inevitable bad movie that ends the same is just insanity. I refuse to be taxed & you’ll find everyone else that says they want to live in Flagler County will bail on it too. Cut their losses & leave. 174 pages of a report with the same ending, a quick & merciful death vs a longer drawn out process of the beach’s demise.
Like I said before, Elect Repubs you get filthy scrubs. Most of them don’t give a hoot about the little man when a storm come they will evacuate because they have other places to go. Our tax dollars pay for it. Vote for Repubs if you want to you see where the county and the state is heading. We are going down.
By the numbers, $ 15 million for 100K population is another $ 150/year. The fine art of Government waterboarding for higher taxes. It’s even more when you consider that there will always be the freeloaders that avoid being taxed because taxes are not collected per person, it’s per dwelling & not the occupants of any given dwelling. Some will pay another’s share in an imperfect tax collection system.
Michael Kavanagh says
Why are taxpayers forced to pay for this insanity of fighting mother nature?! Any ecology 101 course: DO NOT BUILD ON A BARRIER ISLAND.
And if you do, great. American dream, libertarian, etc.
You foot the bill!! Everything. Infrastructure, insurance.
Leave me, the taxpayer, out of your folly.
Jim Benintende says
Can someone tell me how one property owner can hold up the beach replenishment program? Is it because Flagler County wants to protect its long standing history of not exercising Eminent domain. If that is the case it’s unconscionable. Letting one person prevent the good of every other homeowner but one! Will someone please wake up and impose Eminent domain.
Jane Gentile-Youd says
If jetties are working elsewhere in the world what is the absolute refusal to consider constructing them here? Huh? Somebody please tell me.
Bob Todd says
Jetties are a reasonable solution to the erosion problem. Jetties will create point breaks for surfers, platforms for fishermen, habitat for fish and restore our beaches.
Is the remediation process being slowed down by the “property hold-outs” who wonlt give their go ahead for beach conservation efforts?
The Villa Beach Walker says
Perhaps it’s time for the citizens of Flagler Beach to take a different approach to the hold out land owner on South A1A.
The citizens of Flagler Beach and Flagler County are going to experience real financial harm should the Army Corp of Engineers walk away from the beach renourishment project. Citizens have already lost access to the beach and these losses will continue. My understanding is the hold out owner owns real property in Flagler Beach in addition to the disputed property. Perhaps the citizens of Flagler Beach should consider launching a civil suit against the hold out owner seeking to recoup some of the millions of dollars that the city will spend and that citizens will have to pay in assessments and added taxes to mitigate the damage to our city caused due to the this hold out.
To date city officials have moved forward with eminent domain for the land which the hold out holds littiorial (ocean front) rights. Maybe we should take the gloves off and go after the hold out’s other properties.
Alphonse Abonte says
Liberals are too “smart” to believe in a “man made god” but they believe in man made science.
Ironic that china pollutes and we collect and redistribute the “carbon tax”.
Waiting for liberals to have a Jim Jones moment and sacrifice themselves to the almighty gender neutral goddess of the earth to save the planet from themselves.