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Perdido Beach boost

Updated: Saturday, August 3 2013, 03:34 PM CDT
Perdido Beach boost story image
ESCAMBIA COUNTY   --  Another hurricane season is just days away, and residents on Perdido Key are more anxious than ever.

The beach on the key needs a boost.
The white sands are washing away while property owners and the county bicker over a project that could be a solution.

Here along Perdido Key, everything along the waterline here belongs to the state and it's perfectly for the public to fish and enjoy the beach.

But as you move up the beach, this becomes private property. It belongs to the condo owners.

The problem is this entire beach is getting smaller through erosion. And unless the condo owners and the county can come to an agreement.  The next time a big storm comes through.  It could cause some major damage.

The Gulfside Beach on Perdido Key is changing and not always for the better.
Randy Schaffer/Visits Perdido Key each year

"When we first started coming here the beach line was much further out there than it is now. And here it's almost up to the steps in some of these places. It didn't use to  be that way."

Randy Schaffer has been coming to the key for 12 years.
He's watched the sands wash away.
"I can't imagine what it's going to be like in another decade, especially with some more big storms coming through. The beach doesn't seem to repair itself as much after storms. So it seems like it's something that should be done, or at least looked into."

The county and state have done just that.
Perdido Key needs a beach nourishment.

Tim Day/Escambia County
"The east side of Perdido Key, from Johnson Beach to Perdido Key State Park, has been designated as critically eroded by the state of Florida."

The plan is to pump in more than one million cubic feet of sand from a "borrow site" two miles off shore.
"Basically they'll kick a pump on and start sucking sand off the bottom, and they can do approximately 500 feet a day."

The project has been talked about for years but the county struggled to get beach property owners to give easements allowing the work and subsequent maintenance to be done.

The problems center on the length of that easement...
Authur Millenberg
"They asked us to give an easement for 14 years."
...and what happens to that newly created stretch of public beach after the work is done.

Authur Millenberg/Perdido Condo Owner
"We would want some assurance that the county commissioners would not one day deem it in their best interest to allow a hot dog stand, and a sunglasses store, and a store that sells sun tan lotion. Because that is after all right outside our living room windows and right under our balconies."

Eddie McMillan/Perdido Condo owner
"They're also concerned that once they give up that -- those rights -- with this long term easement, it'll be gone forever."

In the meantime another hurricane season approaches.
Instead of using 14 million dollars now. We could be out hundreds of millions of tax dollars when a big storm hits wiping out roads and utilities shutting down the economy on the key.

Gene Valentino/Escambia County Commissioner
"Do we really want to wait for another crisis? Or should we fix it now? We should fix it now."

It's a project the county wants to see fast-tracked before the money to do so moves elsewhere.

Gene Valentino/Escambia County Commissioner
"We had to turn back more than two million dollars in money to DEP that was given to us by grant because we hadn't wrapped up these easements fast enough."

The county commissioners decided to take action last Thursday voting unanimously to use emminent domain to get the easements to nourish Perdido Key.

Gene Valentino/Escambia County Commissioner
"Wouldn't you want someone to come into your backyard and spend money to protect the value of your property? That's what we're talking about here."

If you'd like to share your opinions on this issue, you can contact Escambia County Commissioner Gene Valentino who represents this district.
If you have an idea for a Waste Watch report  visit weartv.com and click on Waste Watch to tell us about it.
Perdido Beach boost
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