Friday, June 7, 2024

Coastal home owners in Florida are fighting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over beach access as the ocean increasingly erodes the land

Route Fifty:

A series of storms, culminating in last fall’s Hurricane Idalia, have eroded most of the sand that protects Redington Shores and the towns around it, leaving residents just one big wave away from water overtaking their homes.

This perilous situation is the result of a standoff between local residents and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the federal agency that handles flood prevention and protects many of the nation’s beaches. The Corps often rebuilds eroded beaches by hauling in thousands of tons of sand, but the agency is refusing to deliver $42 million of new sand to Pinellas County unless the area’s coastal property owners grant public access to the slivers of beach behind their homes. Hundreds of these property owners, however, are in turn refusing to sign documents that grant these points of access, which are known as easements. The faceoff has brought the area’s storm recovery to a near standstill.


The Corps put the easement policy in place decades ago to ensure that it didn’t spend public money to restore private beaches, but the agency didn’t begin enforcing the rule in earnest until after Superstorm Sandy in 2012.