Winds and storm surge from Hurricane Idalia impacted numerous coastal communities on the Gulf of Mexico.
The continued impact on the shore there adds urgency to beach renourishment needs in Pinellas County, according to U.S. Rep. Anna Paulina Luna. The St. Petersburg Republican’s Office has stepped up demands that the Army Corps of Engineers end delays.
“Following the storm this issue is not just pressing, it’s dire,” said Edie Guy, a spokesperson for Luna.
The Congresswoman since her election to the U.S. House has remained in a struggle with the Army Corps over the issue. The federal agency wants to have 100% of property owners potentially affected by a public access easement sign off on the project. That’s a requirement many local officials fear will be impossible to meet.
In August, Luna called for Congress to invoke the Holman Rule and defund the salary of the Army Corps of Engineers Assistant Secretary Michael Connor over the matter.
“We are done playing games. You don’t get to mess with our homes and endangered species,” Luna said at the time.
If the Army Corps continues to delay the project, Luna’s team says the possibility of defunding the agency will become more likely.
“We have also received support from other Florida Members who are experiencing the same issue with the Corps and will be supporting our motion,” Guy said.
Idalia only worsened problems on the coast, according to Luna’s Office. The hurricane, which reached Category 4 status for a period in the Gulf of Mexico, produced significant wind and storm surge damage on the Gulf Coast of Florida.
While the storm made landfall in the Big Bend, Tampa Bay communities dealt with flooding and winds, especially in the Pinellas County region that Luna represents.
Representatives from Luna’s Office attended briefings at the Emergency Operations Center in Pinellas with Gov. Ron DeSantis, Attorney General Ashley Moody and other local officials.
“After the storm made landfall, our staff went to Tarpon Springs to meet with their local Police and Fire Chief while at their EOC. We have also been on two calls with FEMA with another one scheduled for Tuesday,” Guy said.
“Our major concern right now is the damage our beaches have suffered from the hurricane and months of the Army Corps downright ignoring our calls for beach renourishment.”
At this point, the office has characterized delays by the Army Corps as “bureaucratic delay tactics and willful obstinance,” something that ignores beach erosion on full display in the wake of the storm.
“This could easily be resolved by the Army Corps doing the right thing but they have refused to even respond to our last letter and calls for action,” Guy said.
St. Pete Beach and the rest of the Pinellas County beaches really need beach re-nourishment projects. Top photo was taken 8/16 just before Hurricane Idalia, the bottom is the aftermath.@realannapaulina @USACEHQ #help #stpetebeach #protectstpetebeach #Hurricaneldalia pic.twitter.com/sxcYRS9Ujf
— Jennifer McKenney (@JenMcKen16) September 5, 2023