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Pinellas County's beaches continue to erode as renourishment plans remain at a standstill

An eroded beach with homes on the left
Daylina Miller
WUSF Public Media
Erosion is seen along Belleair Beach following Hurricane Idalia on Aug. 31, 2023.

Nearly 200 miles from where Hurricane Idalia made landfall, the beaches experienced some of the worst erosion seen in decades.

When Hurricane Idalia slammed into the Big Bend last month, it brought with it record storm surge to a wide swath of the Gulf Coast.

Pinellas County beaches — nearly 200 miles from where Hurricane Idalia made landfall — experienced some of the worst erosion seen by local residents and coastal researchers in decades. Some of the sand dunes were completely wiped out.

The storm made an ongoing problem much worse. Even before Idalia, efforts to renourish the beaches have been complicated by a standoff over property rights.

The county pays 35% of the cost of beach renourishment and the federal government pays 65%. But because it’s using public money, the Army Corps of Engineers wants permanent easements before it will do the work. And a lot of landowners along the beaches don’t want to sign the easements.

Host Matthew Peddie talks with Pinellas County Public Works director Kelli Hammer Levy, who’s been working with the Army Corps and city officials and local residents in Sand Key, Treasure Island and Long Key to get these projects going.

Peddie also discusses the science of beach erosion with University of South Florida professor Ping Wang.

You can listen to the full conversation by clicking on the “Listen” button above. Or you can listen on the WUSF app under “Programs & Podcasts.

I am the host of WUSF’s weekly public affairs show Florida Matters, where I get to indulge my curiosity in people and explore the endlessly fascinating stories that connect this community.
Hi there! I’m Dinorah Prevost and I’m the producer of Florida Matters, WUSF's weekly public affairs show. That basically means that I plan, record and edit the interviews we feature on the show.