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Aerial view of the beach from before Hurricane Opal in 1995.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection publishes a report on Critically Eroded Beaches in Florida. The following is a link to that report:
The report is rather long at 92 pages. Below are some significant pages which define "Critically Eroded" and two pages on Okaloosa County beaches.
Definition of “Critically Eroded”
The earlier statewide inventories of critically eroded shorelines included only those erosion areas where there was a threat to development or recreational interests. The current inventory of critically eroded areas is based on an updated and modified definition of critical erosion. “Critically Eroded shoreline” is defined in the Department’s rule 62B-36.002 (5) as
“a segment of the shoreline where natural processes or human activity have caused or contributed to erosion and recession of the beach or dune system to such a degree that upland development, recreational interests, wildlife habitat, or important cultural resources are threatened or lost. Critically eroded areas may also include peripheral segments or gaps between identified critically eroded areas which, although they may be stable or slightly erosional now, their inclusion is necessary for continuity of management of the coastal system or for the design integrity of adjacent beach management projects”.
Erosion is “critical” if there is a threat to or loss of one of four specific interests – upland development, recreation, wildlife habitat, or important cultural resources. Many areas have significant historic or contemporary erosion conditions, yet the erosion processes do not currently threaten public or private interests. These areas are therefore designated as non-critically eroded areas and require close monitoring in case conditions become critical.
In contrast, in some areas the erosion processes are not particularly significant, except to the extent that adjacent public or private interest may be threatened. If there is no threat to interests in need of protection, then an erosion condition is not critical.
Many of the designated critically eroded beaches have been restored through the placement of beach fill material. The shorelines where these beach restoration and nourishment projects have taken place are improved compared to their pre-project condition when they were designated as being critically eroded. Although these beach management projects and their subsequent maintenance have mitigated the original critical erosion conditions, these shorelines retain their critical erosion designation in order to retain their State of Florida funding eligibility, for long term management and beach project maintenance and monitoring. Roughly half of the designated critically eroded beaches are currently managed.
There are three critically eroded beach areas (6.5 miles), and one critically eroded inlet shoreline area:
The 2.8 miles of developed Santa Rosa Island known as Okaloosa Island (R1-R15) near Ft. Walton Beach is critically eroded. Dune restoration projects were constructed after the hurricanes of 1995, 1998, 2004, and 2012.
The east shoreline of East Pass along Norriego Point is experiencing critical inlet shoreline erosion threatening development and recreational interests. This area has bulkheads and retaining walls in front of private development, and a seawall and boulder mound T-groins along the undeveloped segment to the north.
The western 1.6 miles of Destin (R17-R25.5) is designated critically eroded following the severe impact of the 2005 hurricane season and on-going erosion conditions. The western portion on Holiday Isles (R17.2-R19.8) received emergency nourishment in 2010, and the entire beach restoration project was completed in 2013.
The eastern 2.1 miles of Destin (R39-R50) is designated critically eroded
threatening development and the coastal road. This area is a beach restoration project constructed in 2007.
(Last updated June, 2014)
Below is the letter that was sent to the Daily News and published as being written by OILA. OILA did not write this letter. The authors are identified at the end of the letter and their names were omitted from the publication.
The Island: Okaloosa
The Reality: Beaches are Critically Eroded
The Myth: The County proposes the use of inferior sand
Without the ability to add high quality white sand to Okaloosa Island beaches, they are vulnerable to and at the mercy of Mother Nature. Since being devastated by several storms in 2004 and 2005 not much has been done to restore Okaloosa Island beaches to their pre-Ivan condition. Contrast that to Destin and surrounding areas where their beaches have been restored. In the July 19, 2017 edition of the Northwest Daily News it was announced that another $9.7 million project to restore Noriega Point to the pre-Ivan profile will begin in the fall.
Like Noah, who built an Ark ahead of the flood, Destin and surrounding
areas are being proactive. Why is Okaloosa Island burying its head in the sand?
The reason: Okaloosa Island has been subjected to arguments, lawsuits, name
calling, misrepresentation of facts, etc. from a small vocal faction sponsored by a private local organization. In 2010, the organizers of this group cost Okaloosa County 1.2 million dollars to
defend against their false claims of “bad sand.” About $210,000 of that was from bed tax revenue and about $1 million was from property tax revenue. Despite the fact that the county won those
challenges, every attempt to improve Okaloosa Island beaches has been met with the same frenzy of misinformation designed to pit people against each other rather than getting things done. Since its
inception in 2011, the self appointed officers, of this private organization have whipped up their supporters by claiming that the sand being considered for Okaloosa Island is not white enough, has
too many shells and
that ONLY Destin Pass sand is acceptable sand. That is simply not true. During the public comment section of the the April 25 Okaloosa County Commission Sand Workshop, the Commissioners and people in attendance were asked if any of them wanted to put bad sand on Okaloosa Island beaches. The answer was, of course, no one does! Despite the claims being made, no one wants bad sand, and, there have never been any plans to use “bad” sand.
Those who have owned homes and condominiums for any length of time on the Island, have watched and listened to all the debates and arguments concerning status, quality, and volume of beach sand on
Okaloosa Island. This is indeed a serious subject as thousands of people have invested millions in their homes and condominiums. High quality sand, equivalent to the existing sand, is needed to
protect those investments. It is important to understand that contrary to what the critics say, the sand being proposed IS high quality white sand. The debate on what sand is “white” enough and
“good” enough can be argued forever.
Whiteness of sand is a subjective measurement; there is no machine available that can do those measurements. The consumer ultimately decides if the sand is “bad.” As a consumer, you simply need to go look at neighboring beaches. The beaches that were restored in 2012 using this supposedly “brown, bad, shell shard laden” sand are, in reality, beautiful! Thankfully, County Commissioners Ketchel, Fountain, Windes, and Boyles, have taken the time to investigate, have been able to separate fact from fiction, and are now building a consensus to try to settle the sand issue and move forward. In February, 2017 they approved a permit application to the Corps of Engineers for an emergency restoration permit for Okaloosa Island that insures a high quality source of sand in the event of a catastrophic storm. This sand, from the OK-A site located a mile offshore, was
selected after lengthy and expensive investigation by Okaloosa County and Coastal Engineers. The truly confounding fact is that the anti-beach restoration group vehemently opposed this permit application, repeating that OK-A sand is “bad, dark, shell shard laden sand” even though it has been sitting on local beaches since 2012 and has been proven to be high quality, compatible, white sand. Those beaches include Eglin beach between Destin and FWB. That so-called “bad sand” has subsequently drifted westward onto the beach at the Okaloosa Island Boardwalk. If you have not set foot on the Okaloosa Island
and Destin beaches that have been recipients of this much maligned sand pulled from the OK-A site, you need to do so. They are beautiful.
Points made by experts at the April 25 and June 20 Okaloosa County Commissioner’s meetings worth noting:
• Okaloosa Island Beaches are Critically Eroded. The west end of the Island being the worst.
• Okaloosa Island is deficit in all three components of “the beach system” which encompasses not only the amount of sand in front of the condos, but also includes sand dunes and offshore sand bars.
• Beach restoration is recommended.
• Restoration of offshore sand bars is critical. Restored sand bars will break the energy of waves offshore reducing damage from wave action in storms. Existing wave action will push sand onto the beach adding volume while polishing the sand in the process.
• Sand does not bleach. The statement that sand will lighten referred to sand dredged from the Gulf bottom. The dark organic matter collected with the sand is bleached out when exposed to the sun.
(Presenters: Matt Trammel of Taylor Engineering, under contract to Okaloosa County for coastal engineering services. Matt Leopold of Carlton & Fields PA, tasked by the Okaloosa County Commissioners to review the process of improving our beaches.)
Everyone needs to go out and look at the restored beaches and make a judgement on their condition. Do not make your decision by simply attending a meeting and listening to what others want you to believe. Decide for yourself! Arguing and fighting just for the sake of arguing and fighting helps no one.
Let’s be proactive. Let's work together and deal with the facts. Let's support our County Commissioners who are listening to the experts and encourage them to do what is necessary to keep our beaches healthy.
Dave Hancock, Dean and Lynda Hanson, Tripp Tolbert, Brance and Desley Parker, Vince Bruner, Jan Heistermann, Jeff and Susie Habermel, John and Claudia Sadrack, Susie Bayne, Sueli Correa, Carol Gorrell, Lowell Hatfield, Cissy Gorrell-Harter, Jonathan Harter, Jane DiLoretto, Patrick and Charlene Hargrove, Shirley Chagnard, Dick and Judy Bauer
At the February 13, 2017 meeting of the Okaloosa Island Leaseholders Association a resolution was passed supporting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit application for nourishment of the beach and berms on Okaloosa Island.
There have been a lot of articles and messages for and against the permit application flying back and forth. The OILA members at the meeting reviewed the facts and passed a resolution supporting the application. This was done after reviewing the facts of the application:
Frankly, it is good management on the part of Okaloosa County to have this permit on hand for an emergency.
A second resolution was also passed. This resolution requests that Okaloosa County Board of Commissioners start the process to identify a source of "good/white" sand for the nourishment of beach and berms to be that the permit application will allow.
As a site for sand has already been permitted this resolution may be after the fact.
President of OILA
Commissioner Carolyn Ketchel's Newsletter (March 8, 2017)
Sand Creates its Own Storm
Those of us who have lived on the Florida Panhandle for a long time clearly remember the devastation caused by past hurricanes, including Erin and Opal in 1995, George in 1998, Isidore in 2002, Ivan in 2004, and Dennis in 2005. I will never forget when Hurricane Opal sent the Gulf of Mexico washing over Okaloosa Island into the Sound and stranding hundreds of boats on Highway 98 in Fort Walton Beach. The devastation to the Island and our community was shocking. Highway 98 between Destin and Brooks Bridges was washed away. The only means of travel was the Mid-Bay Bridge. Residents were unable to return to their homes on Okaloosa Island because of safety issues. Businesses were disrupted. And tourism, well it ceased as we begun the process of rebuilding.
So what do these historical events have to do with the recent discussions in various news outlets regarding reauthorization by the Okaloosa Board of County Commission to allow a 15-year permit required by the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) for any beach re-nourishment project? Everything.
Authorizing this permit now is necessary because we need to be able to address infrastructure issues immediately after a serious storm. The calamity would be not to pursue a permit at this time. As citizens you would rightly consider the County Commission to be derelict in our duties if we had not secured this permit ahead of any tropical events. Without this permit any necessary re-nourishment projects, even emergency projects, would be delayed many months until the required permits were obtained. We have been blessed not to have a storm for over a decade. But history tells us that we will be hit again someday.
So what exactly does the reauthorization of this U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit provide to the County? It gives the Board of County Commission the ability to conduct beach re-nourishment, on an as-needed basis, to maintain the beach design template. The reauthorization of this permit does not mean that any beach re-nourishment is planned or anticipated. The intent of the permit at this time is to make sure we have such permits to allow us to take future action in a timely manner, but only if necessary. ANY re-nourishment project would require a future affirmative vote of the Board of County Commission.
Before any beach restoration was approved, the Board of County Commissioners would consider cumulative impacts including AESTHETICS of sand color and quality, conservation, economics, general environmental concerns, wetlands, historical properties, fish and wildlife values, flood hazards, floodplain values, land use, navigation, shoreline erosion and accretion, recreation, water supply,, water quality, energy needs, safety, food, and fiber production, mineral needs, and considerations of property ownership.
I stated during our recent BCC meeting that if such any re-nourishment was required due to beach erosion as a result of a storm, that as the Commissioner that represents Okaloosa Island, I would strongly oppose any such project unless the sand placed on our beaches was of equal quality that matched the beauty of our Island. Nothing less! To that end, the BCC voted to create a citizen board to look at sand to find a match should restoration ever be seriously considered, that the residents and business owners could agree on. The steps taken by the Board of County Commission were proactive and prudent measures to protect the most valuable nature resource in Okaloosa County, our sugar white beaches.
The members of this appointed committee are as follows: Mr. Mike Mitchell, former Okaloosa County Commissioner and Dave Hancock, representatives from the Okaloosa Island Leaseholders Association, Mr. Vince Brunner, Esq. and Mr. Joe Guidry, representatives from the business community, Dave Sherry and Larry Bush, Esq representatives from the Condo Alliance of Okaloosa Island. This committee is tasked with reporting to the Commissioners at the April BCC meeting on the satisfaction of the quality of sand if needed for future re-nourishment.
Commissioner Carolyn Ketchel is the Chairman for the Okaloosa County Commission. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 850-651-7105
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