Posted on August 22, 2022
With work already on track for the southern part of Flagler County, commissioners plan to ask the Army Corps of Engineers to study beaches and dunes in the rest of the county.
That was one of the items discussed by county commissioners during a workshop on Monday about a beach and dune management plan. Commissioners also discussed beach access, which is an important factor for the Army Corps when choosing whether to pick up the tab for any dredging or other work to restore beaches or prevent erosion.
The county is also preparing an ordinance that will officially make it the agency in charge of beach and dune management for its entire coastline.
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Flagler County Commission Vice Chair Greg Hansen said in an interview after the workshop, during which no vote was taken, that he wants beach and dune management to have as little cost as possible to residents.
“Going forward, there’s a lot of pieces and parts that all come together,” Hansen said. “But my goal, or I should say our goal, is to get this done with the smallest impact on the Flagler County taxpayers that we can.”
The project is not cheap. The “probable equivalent annual cost” of the six alternatives presented to the Flagler County Commission ranged from $7.9 million to $15.9 million, according to a Beach and Dune Management Study prepared for the county by Olsen Associates in Jacksonville. That is the cost for the initial construction of the beach and dune and total cost of future required maintenance and restoration, according to Olsen Associates.
Flagler County must also avoid impacts to rocks that are near shore and offshore or else it would have to pay for expensive rock mitigation, which costs more than $2 million per acre based on other projects in Florida.
Flagler County Director of Engineering Faith Alkhatib said the county plans to extend its beach management project for the rest of the county’s nearly 12 miles of coastline. Counting the area in Flagler Beach where a project is ready to start once the final two easements are purchased, the county has 18 miles of shoreline.
But finding the money is key.
“It’s all about the money and the funding,” she said.
Alkhatib said the county plans to do outreach for public input.
“That’s very critical for our community, because it’s going to be impacting the funding analysis and how to proceed,” she said.
Beach erosion has been a particular concern of late for Flagler Beach, which since July has seen sand carved away from spots along its shoreline. The erosion was most dramatic north of the city’s iconic pier where erosion has left a drop off of several feet. Before, the sand had sloped down to the water.
Flagler Beach City Commission Chair Ken Bryan and Flagler Beach Commissioner Jane Mealy attended the Monday’s workshop and spoke during the public portion about the city’s concerns.
After the meeting, Bryan gathered with Flagler Beach City Manager William Whitson and Alkhatib on the north side of the pier to look over the erosion. He said he has reached out to others, as well.
“We also have invited the representative from the Department of Transportation to come to the (Flagler Beach City Commission) meeting Thursday to tell us what his professional opinion is as far as A1A, how much they are going to monitor it, if they start to see any additional deterioration of the beach itself and the dunes and what their particular initiatives will be in order to mitigate that,” Bryan said.
The city is also looking at the new drop-offs or sand cliffs north of the pier.
“We’re also concerned about safety here as far as people having access to the beach itself,” Bryan said. “So we’re looking at some of the options we may have as a commission to make sure that the beachgoers are safe and not dropping off a cliff or anything like that.”
Bryan said simply dumping sand on the beach would not solve the problem because the waves would just wash it out.
Bryan said the pier had been checked and was not in danger.
“There is no risk at this point of it collapsing or anything like that,” Bryan said.
Chris Creed, an engineer with Olsen Associates who made the presentation before the county, said it was unclear what could have caused the recent erosion on Flagler Beach and that the quickness surprised him.
“It could have been a sandbar shift off shore,” Creed said. “It could have been just the higher tides with the bigger moons that we’ve had recently.”
Alkhatib said the county would keep an eye on the situation.
“I think this is like, Mother Nature’s happening all the time here. All we can do at this time is to monitor the situation,” she said.
Alkhatib said she was concerned about how much dune was lost from the area near State Road 100 and A1A.
She said she has asked the county’s consultant to do another survey in the area so they can monitor the situation. The Florida Department of Transportation is also monitoring the erosion.