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Eroded Pinellas County beaches further damaged by Hurricane Idalia

View of a beach with dunes.
Daylina Miller
Sunset Beach was supposed to be renourished by the Army Corps of Engineers in 2021. A dispute with the federal government has halted the project.

A narrower beach means less protection for homes and businesses along the coast. But a dispute over federal guidelines has delayed beach renourishment projects in Pinellas County.


Pamela Cody of St. Petersburg has been coming to Treasure Island in Pinellas County for years.

On Thursday, she unfolded a beach chair on a narrower spit of sand on Sunset Beach after storm surge and waves from Hurricane Idalia eroded the coast.

"This is all washed up right here,” she said. “It used to be a hundred yards of beach before you get to the water."

A narrower beach means less protection for homes and businesses along the coast. But a dispute over federal guidelines has delayed beach renourishment projects in Pinellas County.

That has Cody and other residents worried about the beaches during the height of hurricane season.

"It definitely affects the coastline any time you have a big storm,” she said. "But it’s about land management. It's about renourishing and taking care of our beaches; whatever they gotta do."

The Sunset Beach neighborhood is located on the southern tip of Treasure Island in Pinellas County.
Daylina Miller
The Sunset Beach neighborhood is located on the southern tip of Treasure Island in Pinellas County.

After storm surge and high tides from Hurricane Idalia closed barrier islands and gulf beaches, residents were assessing the damage while Treasure Island officials toured beaches that are already considered critically eroded.

Meanwhile, The City of Indian Rocks Beach has closed 14 of the 28-beach accesses due to sand loss and erosion.

Mayor/Commissioner Joanne "Cookie" Kennedy will hold a press conference Friday to discuss the impact of beach renourishment.

For years, Pinellas County has been trying to work with the Army Corps of Engineers on renourishment projects. But a dispute over federal guidelines has delayed those plans.

The federal agency is requiring property easements from beach community homeowners before taxpayer dollars are used to restore the beaches.

Pinellas County, which administers the beach renourishment projects across the county, was recently notified that planned projects for Treasure Island and St. Pete Beach, had been halted.

The county pays for the local share of the nourishment projects. The federal share for the Treasure Island and St. Pete Beach Project is 65% and the local share is 35%.

Patrons at a tiki bar with bamboo furnishings.
Daylina Miller
The palm thatched beach bar Ka Tiki is a popular spot on Treasure Island, directly across from Sunset Beach.

Paul Wille, manages the bar Ka Tiki, on Sunset Beach in Treasure Island. He says businesses are worried that diminished storm protection will impact tourism.

"With the hurricane and with the renourishment project being on hold it’s a little concerning," he said. "You know, that beach brings us a lot of business so we hope for a good outcome there. But being just across the street from the beach maybe one day we'll be beachfront. Not that that's what I'm looking for but that day may come."

Beach renourishment was last completed for Treasure Island in 2019.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection says the entire beach along the three-and-a-half-mile Treasure Island is designated as critically eroded.

As a reporter, my goal is to tell a story that moves you in some way. To me, the best way to do that begins with listening. Talking to people about their lives and the issues they care about is my favorite part of the job.
I took my first photography class when I was 11. My stepmom begged a local group to let me into the adults-only class, and armed with a 35 mm disposable camera, I started my journey toward multimedia journalism.
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