U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist is calling on President Joe Biden to protect Pinellas County’s coast against erosion.
In a letter addressed to the President, Crist asks Biden to intervene in a recent decision by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that stalls plans to shore up a 9-mile stretch of sand from Clearwater to north Redington Beach — the Sand Key Shore Protection Project.
“For decades, the Army Corps of Engineers has been an important partner in supporting our tourism-based economy and protecting our community from the threats posed by climate change,” Crist said in a statement.
“But this latest decision by the Army Corps puts all of that progress at risk. It is unconscionable that the Corps would even consider cancelling such a critical economic, environmental and public safety project. I am calling upon President Biden to right this wrong and take action to protect the future of the Pinellas County Shore Protection Project.”
The Army Corps recently honed in on a once-brushed-over provision that requires Pinellas County to obtain easements from all private property owners along the shoreline — even if no sand will be placed on the homeowner’s lot.
And, if Pinellas County doesn’t obtain the 461 easements from property owners, the Army Corps will refrain from replenishing the eroded areas. The Congressman called the task “impossible and arduous.”
“This stand-off must come to an end immediately. The County and the Corps should already be in the process of planning for and designing the next regularly scheduled interval of this project, especially at a time when weather events in Florida are becoming more regular and more severe,” Crist wrote.
“Instead, we are spending our time trying to convince the Corps of its unwise decision while stretches of the beach erode away.”
This new requirement is different from years past, when the county only collected easements for areas where sand would be replaced, which varies each cycle. But the Corps has refused to accept that compromise for this upcoming nourishment cycle, which is scheduled for the summer of 2024.
“Mr. President, I know this may appear to be an arcane matter that should be settled between lawyers and engineers. Believe me, we have tried — for years. This appeal to you is to elevate a critical public safety and economic matter to stop the Corps from making a consequential decision that will have a lasting negative impact on a coastal community at risk of severe weather and sea level rise,” Crist wrote.
The Congressman has spent the last few years pushing back on this recently revived requirement, sending letters in 2020 and in 2021 calling on the Army Corps to work with Pinellas County to find a compromise.