Southeast
Erosion on Treasure Island's Sunset Beach. Photo: Courtesy of Jason Beisel/City of Treaure Island

FL - Florida coastal communities rush to rebuild disappearing shorelines

This year's hurricane season — which ends Wednesday — has once again reminded us of the risk of living on Florida's shifting shorelines.

Driving the news: Coastal erosion from crisscrossing hurricanes Ian and Nicole has homeowners and coastal communities, like Treasure Island's Sunset Beach, scrambling to rebuild seashores, even as the demand for sand rises and prices increase.

Why it matters: Our beaches draw some 19 million tourists every year, the cornerstone of one of the state's largest economic engines.

  • Development, meanwhile, has creeped closer and closer to the water as Florida's population has exploded in the last 100 years. Allowing homes and businesses to be built so near to those shifting sands means that many are now imperiled.
  • And the cost burden of beach replenishment to save them falls on all of us, like it or not.

The big picture: The 825 miles of sandy Florida coastline are dynamic — shifting and changing over time in response to storms, natural events and, lately, sea-level rise brought on by climate warming.

  • More than half — 426.3 miles — are considered critically eroded, according to a state report in June.

Zoom in: In Hillsborough, unoccupied Egmont Key is critically eroded, plus all of Manatee County's shoreline and minor chunks of Sarasota and Charlotte counties'. In Pinellas, the problem is worse.

  • A 14-mile stretch of Pinellas County beach — Clearwater Pass to John's Pass — is critically eroded.

State of play: Beach sand is typically dredged from the bottom of the sea, but those sources are nearly tapped out, too deep for dredges or near sensitive coral reefs.

  • Because trucking sand from inland is even more expensive, demand has compelled beach communities to seek sand from as far away as the Bahamas.
  • Some private homeowners are paying contractors to truck in sand in order to shore up homes.

What's next: Pinellas County spokesperson Tony Fabrizio tells Axios that a $45-million renourishment project for Sand Key Beach — from Clearwater to Redington Beach, excluding Bellair Shore — has been delayed because the county has not obtained all of the signed easements required by the Army Corps of Engineers.

  • Another renourishment project covering Treasure Island and Long Key — Sunset and Sunshine Beaches in Treasure Island, plus Pass-a-Grille — is scheduled to start in September and end May 2024.

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