Indian River County approves additional $1.9 million to repair beach erosion

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Posted December 12, 2019

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — Repairing eroded beaches will cost about $1.9 million more than originally planned, thanks to Hurricane Dorian.

Earlier this year, the county planned a $4.8 million beach-and-dune restoration project at beaches from south of Indian River Shores to the south end of Riomar Golf Course. On Sept. 3, when Dorian passed by about 105 miles offshore, beaches sustained additional damage, staff said.

An additional 83,100 tons of sand is needed for the project, assistant Public Works director James Ennis said in a Nov. 27 memorandum to County Administrator Jason Brown.

The County Commission approved the additional cost Tuesday, walking into an ongoing political spat.

The county pointed out out the money was from tourism taxes and would be spent on beaches in Vero Beach.

Most of the original $4.8 million already was from tourist taxes. About $1.7 million is from the state Department of Environmental Protection. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is paying $1 million.

"We continue to put millions and millions of dollars into the city of Vero Beach, but then are accused by (Vero Beach) for not putting tourist dollars into the city of Vero Beach," County Commissioner Bob Solari said. "I'm flummoxed."

City officials have complained the county does not share tourism-tax money with Vero Beach. City Council members have been unsuccessful getting the county to use tourism money for a new lifeguard station.

The county plans to ask FEMA to pay the $1.9 million to repair damage caused by Dorian, but there is no guarantee of reimbursement, said Public Works Director Richard Szpyrka.

County Commissioner Peter O'Bryan suggested Vero Beach take over the project from the county.

"Maybe this is a good opportunity to turn this entire project over to the city of Vero Beach, and then they can hire a coastal engineer, and they can do the permit, and they can apply to FEMA," O'Bryan said.

Vero Beach Mayor Tony Young said the city and county should work together. The purpose of the money is to promote tourism in the area, he said.

"What better way to do it than by supporting the beaches?" he asked. The beaches serve the county's interests as well, he said.

The beach-replenishment project began last month at Tracking Station Park, which is expected to remain closed through Dec. 27. The six-month project will work south to access points at Jaycee/Conn Beach and Humiston Beach parks, and conclude by April 30.