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Florida beach nourishment gets funded after all

A program prized by Pinellas tourism businesses escaped Gov. Rick Scott's veto pen.

After pledging earlier this year to cut any new state funding to pump sand onto Florida's eroding beaches, Scott let stand $16 million the Legislature approved for beach nourishment in the state.

Without the new funding, millions of dollars in federal matching funds would have been axed as well, said state Sen. Dennis Jones, R-Seminole. That would leave two local projects, Treasure Island and Upham Beach, dead in the water.

Scott's proposed budget included no new money for building up any of Florida's 825 miles of beaches. He said the state Department of Environmental Protection had $75 million from previous years that it hadn't spent yet.

But critics said the money was already committed to nourishment projects, such as pumping new sand to bolster a stretch from Sand Key south to Indian Rocks Beach.

Jones says Scott staffers dropped their opposition after learning the unexpended funds were already in the pipeline for ongoing projects. Scott's press office didn't respond Monday to requests to explain the governor's change of heart. The $16 million in next year's state budget money will grow to about $60 million with matching federal dollars, said Jones.

A Florida Atlantic University study in 2003 reported that each state dollar spent protecting Florida beaches that have public access prevents the loss of $8 in state taxes paid by out-of-state tourists and residents using the beaches.

"Sand is to Florida what snow is to Colorado,'' said Jones.

Boosters of the Sand Key project got more good news this week. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers came up with enough money to complete the entire job in one year instead of splitting it into two yearlong projects, said Indian Shores Mayor Jim Lawrence in an e-mail Monday to members of the county's Tourist Development Council.

Contact Steve Huettel at huettel@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3384.

Florida beach nourishment gets funded after all 06/06/11 [Last modified: Monday, June 6, 2011 11:11pm]
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