Saving Beaches is Costly: But Doing Nothing is Not an Option

By Flagler Live.

The Flagler County Commission will soon take over all 18 miles of beaches to manage them, and save them. An ordinance is in the works to essentially surrender Flagler Beach’s portion to the county. But saving them will be exorbitantly expensive: think $5 million to $13 million a year in local burdens alone. And it will not be a one-time cost, but a permanent adjustment to a new normal of relentless sand “renourishment” of beaches and dunes, sea-wall construction and rock revetments.

Meanwhile, the county will need more studies. More public input. More analysis of funding sources, of which it currently has none, except for only the first phases of two projects that only cover a portion of the county’s 18 miles of beaches. It’ll all need between 9 and 16 million cubic yards of sand over 50 years, depending on the extent of sea level rise.

The county commission this morning heard the results of the $250,000 beach management study it commissioned last year, and was left with two certainties: doing nothing is not an option. Starting to do something is unaffordable for now, even with six options presented by Olsen Associates, the Tampa-based consultants the county hired for the study. (For an outline of the study, see: “Flagler’s Beaches Are Eroding Critically, and Will Cost County Alone $5 to $13 Million a Year to Slow.”)

The six options are variations on the extent and width of dune and beach renourishment up and down the Florida coast, from piecemeal approaches to a top-shelf approach that would extend an impending U.S. Army Corps of Engineers beach and dune renourishment project on 2.6 miles of Flagler Beach all the way from the Volusia County line to the St. Johns County line. That would be the most solid, most durable approach, building dunes of some 44 cubic yards of sand a foot. But it would be just as expensive as the Corps project, which is expected to cost at least $100 million over the next 50 years, not counting the cost of inflation–or recent findings that its initial sand needs of 500,000 cubic yards will have to be doubled, sharply increasing costs.