Special to the Civic Association By Tim Pallesen.
Palm Beach coastal protection efforts swing into high gear this winter as the inlet gets dredged, the state streamlines its approval process for projects and the town council enacts a 10-year plan to protect the shoreline.
To address the upcoming issues, the Palm Beach Civic Association has joined the Citizens’ Association of Palm Beach to inform the entire town and make joint recommendations.
Town Manager Peter Elwell addressed the two associations at the first meeting of their joint Shore Protection Board on Nov. 12.
Cost Questions & Woods Hole Review
Mr. Elwell said the key question in months ahead will be what Palm Beach residents are willing to pay in added taxes to support the 10-year coastal protection plan now estimated to cost between $65 million and $100 million.
“Where is the appropriate line between protecting public places versus protecting private property?” Mr. Elwell asked. “We can’t afford everything that we want to do. What can everyone rally around?”
The Palm Beach Town council will discuss costs after receiving recommendations from a consultant in January.
The council in April hired Woods Hole Group – an international environmental, scientific and engineering consulting organization based in Massachusetts – to evaluate what’s necessary to protect the Palm Beach shoreline from 2013 through 2022. Woods Hole reviewed the town’s last long-term coastal plan in 1998.
Woods Hole engineers have scheduled a town hall hearing to receive public comment about the 10-year plan at 9:30 a.m. on Dec. 10.
Mr. Elwell reported to the Shore Protection Committee that Hurricane Sandy caused major erosion but only minimal private property damage on Oct. 26.
“This was a big hit, causing the worst erosion since the 2004-05 hurricanes,” he said.
A property owner who lost a seawall south of the Beach Club and two others on the north end are repairing their damage themselves without the town’s help. No other structures were damaged.
The town staff is recommending against spending $5.4 million now for dune restoration because of the storm.
Instead, Mr. Elwell said the town is focused on shore protection projects that will be fast-tracked for state approval soon because of a new agreement with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
Such permits take years to get now. But shore protection projects on DEP’s pre-approved list will require only 60 to 90 days of review before work starts.
“We will essentially have a life-time permit that saves the town time and a lot of money,” Mr. Elwood said.
The agreement means Palm Beach can add sand to replenish its public Midtown and Phipps Park beaches quickly when necessary. The town also has state support to rehabilitate 90 existing offshore groins that manage the flow of sand.
But the state agreement doesn’t support adding new groins in Reach 7 on the south end of town. DEP wants to see first if more sand can protect upland property owners.
“Some feel groins are necessary to stabilize the sand there. It’s an engineering debate and a point of contention,” Mr. Elwell told the committee.
Details of the agreement will be announced at a town hall informational meeting at 9 a.m. on Dec. 6.
Inlet & Sand Transfer Plant Dredging
Palm Beach also will get more sand for its beaches when the Army Corps of Engineers dredges the Palm Beach Inlet starting in January.
In years past, the Army Corps placed the dredged sand offshore to save money, which didn’t benefit the town. But town officials negotiated with Corps so that 280,000 cubic yards of sand will be deposited on the island’s north-end beaches this time.
The DEP agreement also allows Palm Beach to extend a pipeline to move the inlet sand south to replenish all the town’s beaches.
Shore Protection Bus Tour
Mr. Elwell and town coastal coordinator Rob Weber will narrate a bus tour of Palm Beach’s shoreline on Dec. 14 to show coastal problems to residents.
The Palm Beach Civic Association and the Citizens’ Association are sponsoring the three-hour bus tour starting at 9 a.m. Call (561) 655-0820 for reservations.