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DeSantis approves $50 million more for beach renourishment

eroded beach
Steve Newborn
WUSF Public Media
Beach erosion from Hurricane Idalia is shown on Indian Shores.

The additional money pledged by the state comes as an impasse continues with the Army Corps of Engineers over allocating federal funds to replenish eroded beaches.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday that he will approve more state money to replace eroding sand on Pinellas County beaches. This continues a program that ramped up after several hurricanes battered the area's coasts.

DeSantis said during a ceremony at Redington Shores Town Hall that our coastlines are the first line of defense against worsening storms.

Just across Gulf Boulevard from the event, Hurricane Idalia heavily eroded sand on the beach last year - even though it didn't directly strike the area.

“Today, I'm announcing that as we go through the budget for next fiscal year, I have approved in the budget an additional $50 million to support beach renourishment,” he said, “bringing our total state investment in these efforts to over $550 million since 2019.”

State officials are also asking the Army Corps of Engineers to speed up policies that they say have impeded getting federal money to replenish the beaches. The Corps decided last year to require every beachfront property owner to sign over an easement for access for any renourishment projects.

Governor signs bill
Facebook Live screen capture
Gov. DeSantis signs the bills during a ceremony at Redington Shores Town Hall.

The Corps says since public tax dollars would be used for the projects, the public should have access to any renourished beach.

"The federal interest in protecting the infrastructure behind it, it does come with a requirement by law that says that I can't - as a federal agency - spend money to protect private property," said Col. James Booth, district commander for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District, during a public meeting in Indian Shores in September.

"And that's where we go to requiring these perpetual easements, so that we can come in and do the restoration on these projects after the storms have the impacts that we know they have on them," he said at the time.

"If the real estate interests and the easement issue is not resolved, we will not move forward with either of the three what we call segments - Sand Key, Treasure Island or Long Key," he said.

Wes Brooks, the state's resiliency officer, urged the Army Corps to reconsider.

"Corps bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. don't understand their mission, their attention and their urgency should be directed at working with your communities to restore federal beach and shore protection projects to their full design levels as quickly as possible before the next disaster," he said at the event.

"Secretary (Shawn) Hamilton and DEP continue to press Corps leadership to adopt a new approach that values Floridians' homes and livelihoods over their own agency lawyers' unfounded and unsupported policy interpretations."

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.