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The Flagler County Board of County Commissioners decided Monday to apply for a grant that would give the county $225,750 over two years to continue a feasibility study for the preservation of the county’s shoreline.
Results of the study, which is being conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, are being expedited and should be ready by February, County Administrator Craig Coffey said. Completion of this study could qualify the county for federal funding for preservation efforts, depending on its results.
However, Commissioner Milissa Holland worried that the study might be a poor use of resources because it’s been ongoing for several years without results.
Holland questioned whether it might be more prudent to work collaboratively with coastal counties nearby to find a sustainable solution for a lengthier stretch of beaches than just those in Flagler County. She said moving sand around to stop beach erosion may not be the right solution.
“Sand travels south,” she said. “Have we looked at … solutions that would benefit the region all the way to the north and to the south? We’re not really benefitting the whole because we’re perpetuating the issue to others, who in turn give it back to us.”
Coffey said following the current model is the only way to ensure that the county is eligible for federal funds, but Holland pushed back, asking again that the county consider the sustainability of its preservation efforts.
“This is more of a reactive approach than a proactive approach,” Holland said. “Are we going to have to go through another study another five, 10 or 15 years from now?”
Coffey said that depending on what a completed feasibility study said, the federal government could pay 65% of any actions taken on the beach.
“The reality is, it’s a battle of man versus nature,” he said. “And the reality is, there’s no magic solution to that.”
Coffey stressed that a “successful” solution to the problem of beach erosion won’t be sustainable, inexpensive and environmentally friendly, because that kind of solution doesn’t exist. Instead, he defined a successful operation as one that saves State Road A1A.
Commissioner Alan Peterson questioned the merit of devoting such time and cost to protecting the road.
“We’re making an assumption that the Florida Department of Transportation would maintain A1A for a 50-year timespan,” he said. “But if the road is in danger and there is no agreed program to continue to protect it, then they may decide that the loss of property may be greater in other areas.”
During public comment, some residents questioned the merit of the Army Corps’ study. Ruther Hellerman, of Flagler Beach, said if the solution presented by Holmberg Technologies were to be implemented, the problem would be solved within three months.
“I have given eight years of my life to studying beach and shoreline erosion around the world,” she said. “We took into account a way to save our beach, to save our dune system, and to save the A1A.”
The solution Hellerman supports would place a network of fabric tubes perpendicular to the beach, which, the plan’s proponents say, would collect sand, effectively lengthening the sandbar and, by extension, the beach.
Dick Holmberg came before the Tourist Development Council a month ago asking for $50,000 to implement his plan, but was asked to return with a more specifics about where the money would go and how the plan would work.
The plan will stand before the TDC once more in October. If it passes, it will go before the County Commission.
In the meantime, the feasibility study will move forward: The board decided so unanimously.
But Jane Mealy, of Flagler Beach, questioned the lack of success stories she’s heard in regard to the Army Corps of Engineers’ ability to solve problems with beach erosion.
“We need to be careful,” she said. “Our beach is our survival. If we don’t have a beach, we don’t have tourism; we don’t have money in Flagler County.”
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