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Florida beach projects are a big investment. Are they worth it?

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Posted at 9:00 AM, Nov 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-15 09:00:46-05

Beaches are generally the first thing that comes to mind when people think of Florida. That’s certainly the case with Dympna Duddy who lives in Ireland.

“I can’t speak enough about,” said Duddy as she looks out at Bathtub Reef Beach in Stuart. “Florida depends so much on tourists who come from all over the world.”

Tourists who come from all over the world to enjoy our beaches.

Our beaches have taken a beating over the years from nor’easters and storms such as Hurricane Matthew and Hurricane Irma.

Beach erosion has become a consistent problem along our coastline and we’re pumping a lot of money into replenishing sand.

“They say paradise ain’t cheap,” said Martin County Deputy County Administrator Don Donaldson.

Bathtub Reef Beach is a good example. Over the last decade, millions of dollars have been put into the beach. The problem is county leaders don’t want to interrupt the beautiful reef there so a longer lasting project is out of the question.

Martin County’s yearly average for beach projects including the St. Lucie inlet is about $5 million.

Donaldson says northern county beaches see an annual erosion rate of 2-3 feet and it could get worse as sea levels rise. “Beach nourishment, ecologically it’s still our best tool managing the coastline in an environmentally friendly manner.”

Indian River County leaders say their past 11-year average beach expenditures were about $6.7 million a year, mostly leveraged by grants.

St. Lucie County’s big project came in 2013. It was $7.5 million total with funding coming from the state and federal government and local residents on the island that paid a special assessment. 

Palm Beach County leaders say they average around $15 million a year for beach projects. The county pays for 20 percent of that amount. The rest coming from municipalities, the federal government, and state funds.

A county bed tax pays for the county’s portion of that amount.

Millions of dollars are being spent on these projects, but critics wonder if it’s worth the investment.

“It’s important for maintaining that public access. Significant to the state for property values, income tourist taxes. It’s largely a big piece of our economy,” says Donaldson. “For us, it’s worth the investment.”