2010-11 budget includes $15.5 million for beaches

Supporters of beach sand replacement projects are welcoming a $15.5 million appropriation in the 2010-11 state budget approved by the Legislature.

Gov. Charlie Crist did not request any new money for the projects but supported using $5 million in unspent money from prior year projects. The 2010-11 budget includes $10.5 million in new general revenue in addition to the previous $5 million from the Ecosystem Management and Restoration Trust Fund. Budget proviso language directs the money to go in priority order to projects in Dade County, Martin County (St. Lucie Inlet), Duval County, Manatee County (Anna Maria Island), Pinellas (Sand Key), Broward County and Long Key in Pinellas County.

Debbie Flack, president of the Florida Shore and Beach Preservation Association, said the appropriation was good considering the tough budget year. The group is made up of coastal cities and counties and has an all-government board of directors. But Flack also noted that Florida law requires $30 million in documentary stamp tax revenue yearly for the beach projects. “That ($15.5 million) is still fairly significant in these difficult economic times,” she said. “I would hate to see it stay here indefinitely.”

Beach sand replacement projects were profiled as wasteful and futile on NBC’s “Fleecing of America” segment in March. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection says for every dollar invested in beach restoration, the state receives a $6 to $8 economic return. Beaches have multiple benefits including protection from storm surges, providing habitat for plants and animals, enhancing property values and providing recreation space and attracting tourists, DEP said.

Flack said if approved by the governor, the $15.5 million can be used to match $44.1 million in anticipated federal and local dollars.

Crist has until Friday to act on HB 5001, the proposed state budget. He can use his line-item veto power to eliminate individual spending items.

(Story provided by The Florida Tribune. Story and photo copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and FloridaEnvironments.com. Do not copy or redistribute without permission, which can be obtained by contacting brucebritchie@gmail.com.)