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Veto won't halt Upham Beach repairs

Repairs to a badly eroded beach will go forward despite the governor's decision to withhold state funding, officials said Wednesday.

Plans to renourish Upham Beach were thrown into doubt two weeks ago when Gov. Lawton Chiles vetoed the proposed allocation of $621,000.

But St. Pete Beach City Manager Danny Walker said county officials have since agreed to pick up the state's share of the cost.

"We dodged one," Walker said. Not repairing the beach "would have been devastating."

Upham Beach extends from the south shore of Blind Pass to about 67th Avenue.

Waves, storms and high tides have led to chronic erosion and the need for periodic repair projects. But city leaders are particularly eager this year to get the beach rebuilt, Walker said. The rapid loss of sand has left a sea wall exposed and nearby condominiums are prone to flooding.

Also, Upham Beach is losing its appeal to tourists because there's so little sand, he said.

Under the roughly $3-million plan, which also relies on federal funds, tons of sand will be dumped along the city's northernmost beach, adding between 60 and 160 feet of new shoreline stretching out into the Gulf of Mexico.

Work is expected to start in October.

Chiles had argued there simply wasn't enough money for the project this year.

"In the current fiscal climate," he said in his veto message, "only the most critical capital projects should be authorized. It is inappropriate to expend state funds on projects that do not meet this test, given the other unaddressed needs facing Florida."

Walker said the governor's veto caught the city by surprise.

"That's called not feeding the goose," Walker said. "You know, the goose that laid the golden egg, and the egg being the beautiful pristine beaches of Florida."

"The beaches have to be viable and healthy for this state to succeed" economically, he said.

James B. Terry, head of coastal management for Pinellas County, said the $621,000 will come from revenue from the tourist development tax.

In a separate project, Terry said the governor's veto of nearly $700,000 to rebuild beaches in north Treasure Island would not affect the timeline for that effort.

He said that work is scheduled for 1997, and the county will reapply to the state next year for that money.

Even if the state refuses to chip in, he said, "we will find the funding for the project."