Final phase begins on Flagler’s emergency dune restoration project
Work began Monday on the final phase of an emergency dune restoration project in Flagler County that’s already about 75 percent complete, according to Coastal Engineering Administrator Ansley Wren-Key.
“We’ve been continuously working this year just to get this minimal protection out there,” Wren-Key said of the county’s dune rebuild, which began in January farther south, near the town of Beverly Beach.
The project is replenishing 11.6 miles of dune along Flagler’s coastline, which lost nearly 565 thousand cubic yards of sand to severe beach erosion during Hurricanes Ian and Nicole last year, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
Newly-planted vegetation will also help stabilize the dunes, which is why it’s so important for people to avoid trampling on any plants they see there, Wren-Key said.
From now until the project is complete, Flagler’s River-to-Sea Preserve will only have public access on weekends, from 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday evening.
The county anticipates work on the FEMA and state-funded beach nourishment project to finish by Thanksgiving.
"If we get another storm like Ian or Nicole, all of those areas where there’s no dune will be flooded a lot worse than they were before.”Flagler County Coastal Engineering Administrator Ansley Wren-Key
Flagler’s restored emergency dune will provide minimal, yet critical protection against a five-year storm, according to Wren-Key.
“Even though I say this is minimal protection, it will provide a buffer between the ocean and the houses and infrastructure during a hurricane such as Ian and Nicole,” Wren-Key said.
“Honestly, it’s hugely important, because if we get another storm like Ian or Nicole, all of those areas where there’s no dune will be flooded a lot worse than they were before.”
And hopefully, Wren-Key says, a larger, longer-term project to replenish Flagler’s beaches and dunes still lies ahead.
“Our goal is to maximize the amount of sand that we can get out there on the beaches, and build an actual beach in front of the dune,” Wren-Key said. “And the goal is to actually use the offshore sand and do a dredge project.”
It would be a smaller version of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ pending offshore dredge project elsewhere in Flagler, Wren-Key said. That construction is tentatively scheduled to launch in April 2024.
The dredge performs like a giant vacuum, sucking up enormous amounts of sand from a “borrow area” off the coastline and into a hollow-bellied ship. The ship then pumps out a sand-water slurry, which bulldozers shape into the beach as it dries.
Beverly Beach, where the dune restoration project began earlier this year, is one of 64 Florida municipalities whose budgets largely depend on revenues from properties at risk of chronic, permanent flooding, according to a study recently published by researchers from Cornell and Florida State Universities.
Specifically, 79 percent of Beverly Beach’s revenues come from properties projected to succumb to sea level rise by the year 2100, according to data collected for the study. Nearby, Flagler Beach City draws 30 percent of its revenues from such high-risk properties.
Wren-Key said she plans to review the study’s findings soon.
“We’ve got this long-term erosion that’s occurring, and it’s been occurring for over a decade here,” Wren-Key said. “The beaches are getting narrower and steeper, and starting to erode the dune that protects the infrastructure behind the dune: like the roadways, the buildings, the drainage system.”
Flagler County recently adopted its beach management plan, Wren-Key said.