South Florida’s biggest tourist attraction is sand – the velvety-soft beaches that lead to the mighty rolling ocean. While the lure of idyllic beach getaways garners the attention and tourism dollars South Florida strongly relies upon, the upkeep for the sandy shores requires a major contribution of state monies.
This year, the state of Florida bumped contribution designated for beach restoration. In fact, it was $50 million, the largest contribution for beach widening in more than 10 years. But proponents of a new bill want more; and they want it guaranteed each year.
The proposed legislation asks the state for a set minimum annual allotment of $50 million which can be used for projects such as beach renourishent and replenishment.
Senator Jack Latvala, a Clearwater Republican who heads the Senate appropriations committee and is running for Governor, filed the legislation. He describes current beach projects as a “grab bag” depending upon whomever is in leadership in both houses and which beaches they choose to fund.
The new bill, if passed, would allow a predictable yearly armamentarium from which Florida beach renourishment programs could draw. It also gives preference to tourist hot spots. So beaches in Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade counties could potentially see the biggest dollars toward beach restoration.
Just how important is the replenishment of sand, beach widening, and renourishment of area beaches? Not only do the sandy dunes protect development along the coast, they also contain natural habitats for sea and shorelife alike and aid in protecting property values. In addition, sand replenishment prevents dangerous drop-offs.
Data from the State of the Beach Report January 2017 divulges that about 5% of Florida’s shoreline is eroding or has eroded to a critical status.
They also cite a Coastal Hazards section of Florida’s 2010 FACT report which reveals that of the 825 miles of sandy beaches in Florida, 494.5 miles are considered either critically or noncritically eroded.
The term “critical erosion” includes threats to existing development or recreational interests, and threats to, or loss of, wildlife habitat or important cultural resources, according to the Florida state report.
The American Shore & Beach Preservation Association, which is holding its national meeting in Fort Lauderdale October 24-27, has compiled a primer about beach renourishment. The ASBPA advocates for healthy coastlines and provides a database which details beach renourishment projects, including activity in South Florida counties.
While the new legislation is asking for the $50 million annual minimum, beach restoration projects gather monies from several other local, state, and federal avenues, such as real estate stamp taxes, and special appropriations like the added $13 million received this year to clean up coastal storm damage caused by Hurricanes Matthew and Hermine.