Thursday, June 21, 2018
News Roundup

Repairing Pinellas beaches damaged by Tropical Storm Debby may cost up to $20 million

The damage to Pinellas County beaches wrought by Tropical Storm Debby could cost as much as $20 million to repair, county officials announced Wednesday.

Exactly how much sand was washed away remains to be tallied. But the visuals of eroded dunes and waves crashing where beachgoers used to plant their chairs suggest that reshaping the shoreline will be a costly endeavor.

However Sisyphean the task of constantly feeding new sand to eroding beaches may seem, county officials said it is one that must continue if Pinellas is to attract tourists and protect its residents from storms.

"People expect to see the beach when they come here on vacation and that's going to be a priority for us, it has to be," County Commissioner John Morroni said Wednesday during a Tourist Development Council meeting.

County officials hope federal and state governments will bear the majority of the renourishment costs, said Andy Squires, the coastal manager for Pinellas County.

"It could potentially be done this calendar year if we get federal and state funding," Squires said. "If not, renourishment could take months or years."

Most of the county's beach restoration projects are funded 60 percent by the federal government, 20 percent from the state, and 20 percent from the county. But the crackdown on congressional earmarks — traditionally the county has relied on U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young to bring home the sand — and the recession have made it more difficult to get aid.

Pinellas must compete for money against other counties, many of which also suffered from Debby. If the county does not get outside aid, it could dip into its reserve fund or use money that was allocated for beach repair before Debby's arrival.

Plans already were under way to restore certain beaches, such as Sand Key, where construction has begun, and Treasure Island's Sunset and Sunshine beaches, which were scheduled for repair in 2013.

But officials who previously doubted that beaches such as Pass-a-Grille required their immediate attention are now convinced it will need a sand infusion soon.

Mullet Key, a beach on Fort De Soto Park, also was significantly altered by the storm, Squires said. As was Upham beach on Long Key, where a "perfect storm" of wind, tides, and geography decimated the shoreline, he said.

Geologists at the University of South Florida currently are assessing the damage to discern how many cubic yards of sand were lost and what it would take to restore the beaches. Squires said he expects to receive those figures later this week and pass them on to the Army Corps of Engineers, which prioritizes which beaches to restore based on how essential they are for storm protection.

But some beaches that are popular with residents and tourists are unlikely candidates for outside funding.

The northern beach in Fort De Soto Park was "nailed" by the storm, Squires said, but it is not categorized as an engineered beach, meaning it is not considered part of the area's infrastructure. Shell Key Preserve and Caladesi Island, both of which are uninhabited, also fall into this category.

"Maybe we let them go, let nature take its course," Squires said of those beaches. "It may be now you've got a new reality to live with."

Where did all the sand go?

According to Squires, much of it is sitting just offshore, acting as a buffer and teasing beachgoers with water that is only ankle-deep for many feet out. Some of it will naturally wash back up on the beaches over the course of the summer, but much of it is out to sea.

"We have buoys out there that keep the boaters from getting too close," said Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos, who lives near Sand Key.

"You can basically walk at low tide out to those buoys and it's not even up to your ankles," he said. "You know the sand is there."

Comments
The Daystarter: CareerSource used credit cards to boost hiring totals; report says Winston suspension coming; Hedman wins Norris Trophy; get ready for Pride

The Daystarter: CareerSource used credit cards to boost hiring totals; report says Winston suspension coming; Hedman wins Norris Trophy; get ready for Pride

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.• Today is also the official start of summer, not that anyone will be able to tell. It will be hot and muggy with just a 30 percent chance of rain heading into Friday, according to 10We...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rays journal: 7 pitches, 3 straight homers prove too much in loss to Astros

Rays journal: 7 pitches, 3 straight homers prove too much in loss to Astros

HOUSTON — The Rays were engaged in a third straight tight, go-either-way battle with the defending champ Astros on Wednesday.Until they were not.A brutal seven-pitch sequence by starter Nathan Eovaldi changed everything, as he gave up three con...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Romano: Intrigue behind all those manicured lawns

Romano: Intrigue behind all those manicured lawns

I’ve always thought homeowners associations had a lot in common with cops.People love to complain about them and often accuse them of abusing their power. And yet as soon as a neighbor paints his house a hot shade of fuchsia, you’re screaming for the...
Published: 06/21/18
Daniel Ruth: Florida should consider taking back its outsourced foster care services

Daniel Ruth: Florida should consider taking back its outsourced foster care services

We hear a great deal about how government is the source of all evil, a wasteful, incompetent coven of lazy paper-pushing bureaucrats.That is why the heavens open and the angels sing and all is right with the world whenever we can wrest away various s...
Published: 06/21/18
A tight supply cuts into Tampa Bay home sales while prices keep rising

A tight supply cuts into Tampa Bay home sales while prices keep rising

Tampa Bay’s two largest counties showed anemic home sales in May as prices continued to rise due to a tight supply. In Pinellas, sales of single-family home plunged nearly 12 percent from the previous May, the second-worst showing in a year. P...
Updated: 30 minutes ago
Could Lucky’s Market move in to Clearwater’s old Albertsons?

Could Lucky’s Market move in to Clearwater’s old Albertsons?

Lucky’s Market is considering a move in to the old Albertsons box space in Clearwater, according to preliminary plans filed with the city. Lucky’s master broker, Rick Lewellyn, was listed on an agenda as discussing renovating the existing property wi...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Clearwater wants $40 million from the county for a stadium. But there’s not $40 million to give.

Clearwater wants $40 million from the county for a stadium. But there’s not $40 million to give.

CLEARWATER —The city’s proposed $79.7 million overhaul of the Philadelphia Phillies’ spring training facilities depends on getting $40 million in bed taxes from Pinellas County.But records show even if county officials wanted to bankroll the Phillies...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Police: Couple leased someone else’s home to 15 families at same time

Police: Couple leased someone else’s home to 15 families at same time

LARGO — Vanessa Rodriguez thought she found the right house for her three kids, in the right neighborhood, for the right rent. She signed the lease for April 30, sent a $2,300 money order and planned to move in June 1.Then the delays started. She sai...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rays see the results of keeping a good, young core group together

Rays see the results of keeping a good, young core group together

HOUSTON — The Rays saw a lot on the weeklong trip that ended with Wednesday's game against that Astros, beyond the street hustlers prowling in Times Square and the urban cowboys and girls parading through H-town.There was an impressive debuting...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Kevin Knox poised to become Tampa Bay’s highest NBA draft pick

Kevin Knox poised to become Tampa Bay’s highest NBA draft pick

Kevin Knox Sr. was watching the NFL draft 24 years ago when the phone rang. Buffalo coach Marv Levy was on the other line."Marv said they were taking me," said Knox Sr., a standout receiver at FSU.Soon after, Knox Sr. saw his name scroll across ESPN'...
Updated: 7 hours ago