The homeowner mutiny leaving Florida cities defenseless against hurricanes

Source: Grist


Lisa Hendrickson is almost out of sand.

Hendrickson is the mayor of Redington Shores, Florida, a well-heeled beach town in Pinellas County. Her town occupies a small section of a razor-thin barrier island that stretches down the western side of the sprawling Tampa Bay metro area, dividing cities like Tampa and St. Petersburg from the Gulf of Mexico. Many of her constituents have an uninterrupted view of the ocean.

The town’s only protection from the Gulf of Mexico’s increasingly erratic storms is a pristine beach that draws millions of tourists every year — but that beach is disappearing fast. 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 face-off has brought the area’s storm recovery to a near standstill.

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