COCOA BEACH, Fla. – Tens of millions of dollars is being spent to repeatedly rebuild Central Florida beaches as the effects of climate change chew away the sand.
One project is currently underway in Cocoa Beach, where the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is working to renourish four miles of beach just north of Patrick Space Force Base.
“It’s good for locals, it’s good for sea turtles and it’s good for tourists,” said Mike McGarry, Brevard County’s beach project manager. “Tourists drive our economy.”
Yellow tape ropes off an area where crews are working to bring 25,000 truck loads worth of new sand to shore.
He said they are building the beach higher to protect roads, homes and the creatures who live in the dunes from rising sea levels and stronger hurricanes.
“It is coastal engineering. I mean, you’re trying to hold a shoreline in place forever,” said Dr. Rob Young.
Young is the director of the Study of Developed Shorelines at Western Carolina University.
He has tracked nearly every beach renourishment project across the nation.
His findings showed it is a constant process that can be very expensive.
For example, according to his research, the stretch of Cocoa Beach that is currently being worked on has been renourished ten times before.
The data indicated it is the costliest stretch in Brevard County, costing federal taxpayers $43.4 million to rebuild 10 times since 1966.
In Volusia County, the beach that has been rebuilt the greatest number of times stretches north from Ponce Inlet.
According to Young’s data, it has been renourished six times since 1974 at a cost of just more than $8 million.
The data showed Panama City Beach has the biggest price tag in the state of Florida.
The research showed it has been rebuilt ten times since 1976 with a cost of $90.7 million so far.
In McGarry’s case, he said it is money well-spent.
“If here in the ‘north reach’ we spend $10 million every few years, it’s to support $1 billion of annual economic impact to the county,” he said.
But Young questioned why local communities often do not pay for the projects themselves instead of the federal government.
“Where is the federal interest in maintaining the property values of oceanfront properties and supporting the economy of local resort communities?” he asked. “As long as some fairy godmother is paying for the project from outside the community, well then, you really don’t need to think about it too hard, do you?”
McGarry said Brevard County is paying for the permitting and the monitoring of the current project by using hotel bed tax money, but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is paying for the bulk of it.
Young warns the costs will continue to go up as the sea levels continue to rise.