Posted on May 3, 2023
Beaches along Pinellas County’s coasts have been washing away, many of them in major need of beach renourishment.
Beach nourishment is the process of placing sand on a beach or in the nearshore. A wider and higher beach can provide storm protection for coastal structures, create new habitats, and enhance the beach for recreation. Sand is often dredged offshore, and pumped onto the beaches that need it.
The Army Corps of Engineers provides the permitting, a portion of the funding, and the work to make beach renourishment projects possible.
At a “State of the Beaches” panel conversation, beach renourishment was a hot topic, where nearly every mayor present chimed in on the need for these projects to move forward.
“We were turned down by the Army Corps of Engineers, so we have been able to open up the process and we are working slowly,” Cookie Kennedy, the mayor of Indian Rocks Beach, said.
Kennedy recently took a trip to Washington D.C. asking the White House to intervene and help get the renourishment project back on track.
Why is this project on hold? The Army Corps of Engineers required 100 percent of private property beachfront owners to sign a perpetual easement, giving the Army Corps access to their property, even if it’s in areas not necessarily relevant to the project.
For Sand Key beach renourishment: of the more than 14-mile stretch of beaches, less than 2 percent of that property is private. Yet, it’s still enough to shut the entire project down.
“St. Pete Beach, Treasure Island, and Sand Key. Sand Key is the largest portion of that. About $45 million dollars,” Bill Queen, the mayor of North Redington Beach said. “That’s the one not being funded by the army corps. The army corps is gonna fund Treasure Island and St Pete — but not Sand Key. ”
Sand Key is one of a small handful of projects currently put on hold by the Army Corps of Engineers.
“In sunset beach, we have -6.5% of the sand that was put on the beach is still there,” Tyler Payne, the mayor of Treasure Island, said.
Payne said the project is fully funded and ready for work to begin. The renourishment in Treasure Island was supposed to take place in 2022, but was delayed by the Army Corps because of other projects, Payne explained.
City mayors go through the county to communicate and receive updates from the Army Corps on beach renourishment timelines. Payne has expressed to Pinellas County that more urgency is needed in conversations with the Corps to move the project forward.
“The backup plan is Pinellas County,” Queen said. “So we’ve met with every Pinellas County commissioner and we’ve gotten assurances that they’re behind us to help us renourish.”
On North Redington Beach, where Queen is mayor, all of the sand from the last renourishment has washed away. And it’s happening up and down the Pinellas County coast.
“Belleair beach, who isn’t here tonight — they have zero sand,” Kennedy, the mayor of Indian Rocks Beach said. “So that’s where we’re at…”
City mayors are hopeful the Army Corps of Engineers finds a way to move forward with the project, before resorting to spending county dollars to fund all of sand key renourishment.
These renourishment projects have major impacts, the beaches are a big driver for tourism. The sand is also home to sea turtle nests – and creates a barrier between devastating storms when hurricanes come near.