After the storm, a political hunt for sand dollars

Published July 2, 2012

WASHINGTON — Tropical Storm Debby was still tearing at Florida when U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young got to work. He called the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and checked in with a powerful ally in Congress.

Driving the urgency was not what the storm brought but what it stole. Overnight, miles of Pinellas County beaches were washed away, victims of rapid erosion. Pass-a-Grille's disappeared entirely.

This is the story of politics and sand, an inseparable relationship that has for decades kept an iconic feature of Florida alive at great taxpayer expense while revealing how Washington really works. It is also a tale of a changing Washington gripped by populist politics and fears over debt.

No one embodies it more than Young, R-Indian Shores, who has brought more than $100 million in federal budget earmarks to Pinellas for beach renourishment. He has overcome objections from presidents, budget watchdogs and environmentalists who see the millions for sand as wasteful, unfair or enabling of development in areas on which man was not meant to build. (story here)