A portion of the pier might be opened soon, but the entire structure probably won't open for at least four months.
Flagler Beach residents and visitors who miss walking along the pier might get a chance to venture out onto a portion of it soon, but the opening of the entire pier — what’s left of it, anyway — probably won’t happen for at least four months.
“We have a chance to keep the whole pier — or what you see now of the pier — but to actually make that happen may take all the way to the first of March,” City Manager Larry Newson said at an Oct. 27 Flagler Beach City Commission meeting.
Divers have checked the underwater portion of the structure, and completed an evaluation on the damage done by Hurricane Matthew, Newsom said.
For priorities, Newsom said, he plans to work first on opening a portion of the pier near the restaurant — “at least some of it, maybe part where the Funky Pelican’s deck is” — then moving onto the more involved work of repairing the portions of the pier that are further out.
The deck over the pier’s last 53 pilings was ripped off in the storm, and the pilings broken and scattered. “They’re gone, and I know some of them are down the shoreline,” Newsom said.
The nearby lifeguard station continues to lean.
Newson said the city is still collecting information on possibilities for long-term improvements to the pier.
Those may include making the pier a concrete structure with wood boards that would serve as “a pressure release valve when those waves come in and start pounding on it,” Newsom said.
Five dune walkovers were a total loss after the storm, Newsom said. People have been walking across the dunes to reach the beach, something city officials have repeatedly reminded people not to do, because it causes ecological damage.
SURVEY SHOWS LOCALS PRIORITIZE BEACH CLEANLINESS, EROSION
Results of a survey led by a Ph.D candidate in concert with the city show that nine out of 10 respondents consider a healthy beach very important to their quality of life.
Chad Boda, a Ph.D candidate at the Lund University Center for Sustainability Studies, in Sweden, spent about 20 years living in Flagler Beach and has spent the last several years coordinating with city staff as he conducts research on coastal management.
Boda said in a presentation at the Oct. 27 meeting that his survey respondents — 397 people, or about 9% of the city’s population — in a question about beach management priorities listed cleanliness, erosion and vegetation as their top three priorities of of a possible 15. Respondents took the survey before Hurricane Matthew. Parking and tourism were at the bottom of the list.
But residents also overwhelmingly assigned the responsibility for beach management to the Flagler Beach City Commission, when in fact much of it falls to the Florida Department of Transportation, to the county and to a variety of state and federal agencies.
FDOT’s right of way along S.R. A1A extends beyond the dune in many of the most eroded areas of beach, Boda said, giving it the right to make emergency repairs and alterations — like adding rock revetments — that make a major impact on the beach, and to do so without the public process that would normally be required.
“That certainly means that the immediate ability for the city, for the commission and for citizens can make those kinds of decisions is diminished,” Boda said.
Boda noted that the survey respondents listed sea-level rise near the middle of their priorities, but it hasn’t been integrated into the city’s beach management plan, which was issued in 2014. It should be added, he said.
“It’s kind of a glaring omission from the recommendations of the beach management plan itself,” he said.
Boda noted that the Army Corps of Engineers integrates the likelihood of different levels of sea level rise into its calculations when it plans projects.