What's the difference between the options presented by the Florida Department of Transportation and the Army Corps of Engineers?
By Chad Boda
The FDOT presented its anxiously awaited ideas for possible long term solutions to A1A’s erosion problems at a public workshop last month. Options involved either moving all or part of A1A further west or putting up a 5.2-mile seawall, neither of which are very popular with Flagler Beach elected officials or residents.
The obvious alternative is the Army Corps of Engineers project, a 50-year, $45 million beach nourishment plan which has been in the works for over a decade. But this “solution” is now in danger if the FDOT were to build a seawall on A1A.
Some local press has made it seem like the two options are fundamentally at odds. The FDOT’s proposed project is being presented as a narrow-minded transportation fix that would hurt the environment, while the Army Corps’ project is being presented as an environmental restoration project that would save Flagler’s beach.
Here’s an example from FlaglerLive published after the meeting: "The department’s priority is A1A, its studies are focused on A1A, its spending will be focused on A1A—not the beach. That’s the U.S. Corps of Engineers’ venue, and the Corps, in turn, is not interested in the road."
But this is a serious misrepresentation of the Army Corps project (the FDOT project, admittedly, is indeed a narrow-minded transportation fix that will hurt the environment).
In reality, these agencies fundamentally share the same goal, which is to reinforce A1A. To both the Army Corps and the FDOT, the question of which project is preferable is less a question of environment and more a question of cost.
The FDOT is not bashful about the purpose of their project. The goal is clearly only to save A1A. The Army Corps project seems however somewhat more elusive since it involves dredging hundreds of thousands of cubic feet of sand onto the beach. But as its name suggests, the Army Corps’ “Flagler County Hurricane and Storm Damage Reduction Project” is only interested in preventing damage to structures during storms. What structures, you ask? The answer: State Road A1A.
About 95% of the “benefits” expected from the Army Corps project, described in the feasibility study released in 2014, are expected to be from avoiding damage to A1A, while only about 5% relate to protection of private property or other structures. No calculated benefits come from the environment.
And the hoped for recreational and environmental improvements like more beach for citizens and tourists and more nesting habitat for sea turtles? Far from guaranteed.
The Army Corps actually considers any recreational or environmental improvement caused by the project to be an “incidental” benefit, meaning that whether or not they actually happen is not really a serious a concern, as long as the project stays within budget. But, if they did happen, it would be nice. A kind of bonus, if you will.
It is true that the potential environmental improvements that might be provided by the Army Corps nourishment project would be an improvement on what the FDOT is offering in terms of a seawall. But the evidence to suggest one should rely on beach nourishment to deliver its promises is shaky at best. So if that pathway is chosen, it is important to recognize the fairly high probability of disappointment.
There is another option, but it is borderline heresy in Flagler Beach.
The heretic idea is of course relocating A1A completely away from the beach, which the FDOT seems to be somewhat willing to consider. This option would provide a pathway that could genuinely lead to environmental improvements and a secured road at the same time. It also would improve the city’s capacity to adapt to the effects of climate change, such as sea level rise. It doesn’t, however, come without its own challenges, in particular intense social and political resistance by some residents.
But the most sustainable solutions, which benefit both the environment and the community the most in the long run, may also involve making the most difficult decisions. The answer lies in the hands of the community, which is why they owe it to themselves to fairly balance all the options.
Anyway, I could think of worse ways to spend your free time than discussing and debating with your neighbor about how to create the best possible future.
Chad Stephen Boda is a former Flagler Beach resident. He is working on a doctorate at the Lund University Center for Sustainability Studies, in Sweden.
Don't let others control A1A's destiny
Flagler Beach taxpayers can manage our own affairs.
All we need is a City Commission that thinks of Flagler Beach as their amazingly unspoiled home town with miles of unobstructed and unspoiled beach and not as a cash cow honky tonk for absentee landlords and beachfront bars.
Single-family homes are being made over into multiple apartments all over town, and I fear it won’t be long before condos start moving skyward in Flagler Beach as is already in the plan for the new version of the old development on Roberts Road. Will our generous commission provide Flagler Beach utilities for that development as well the John Anderson corridor?
There is no solution to beach erosion because, as was revealed in one of the reports, A1A along Flagler Beach was laid out too close to the ocean and does not have the required beach for the normal ebb and flow of the ocean when hit by a storm.
We don’t need a pier, it probably has a lot to do with why A1A south of it is hardest hit after storms. And, we can repair the road as needed.
Spending multiple tens of millions more of our money — grants are our money with a huge expensive bureaucracy tacked on — would be, per Einstein, the definition of insanity (doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results).
We were told that tourists would lower our taxes; well, that didn’t happen. As was easy to predict, they went up as our comfort level went down.
We badly need people to run for office in Flagler Beach who will work for us.
John and Evelyn Palmeri
What they're saying on Facebook
The following comments were made in response to the story that explained six options for A1A's recovery. See the story here: bit.ly/2iASwBG.
Amy Eichholz Beard Moving onto the back roads is not an option! It was so dangerous when it was being used as that on South Daytona. My 15-year-old was almost hit multiple times walking from his bus stop, and another child was hit just down the street. There was little to no patrolling during that time. I'm already tired of the people tailgating with the 25 mph speed limit now.
Bon Bell #1 make sure NO climate change deniers included in anything to do with this project. #2 all of these options make me say 'you HAVE to be kidding!' ... These 'OPTIONS' are NOT remotely going to work. This project should be called 'How to waste millions and millions of dollars and never begin to get a grasp on what our shorelines are facing.' Scary Flagler, scary Florida.
Bob Barrows I voted for option 2 at the meeting without having all the facts. I did not realize a seawall would eliminate the beach renourishment program. Eliminating the road totally can't be an option unless something was devised to allow access to businesses and residences along the road. Bon Bell does have a point: the loss of the beach and road, and perhaps the barrier island itself, is inevitable. But why not continue to be able to enjoy the beach until that happens?