Florida Governor Scott: No state money for beach restoration
April 6th, 2011
The following article was published in the Palm Beach Post on April 6, 2011:
Gov. Scott: No State Money for Beach Restoration
By Kimberly Miller
PALM BEACH — There were plenty of bikinis on Palm Beach County's sunny beaches Wednesday, but shirt-and-tie-clad Rick Scott was all business as he evaluated the region's shore erosion and what the state should do about it.
The Republican governor, facing a growing disapproval rating in the latest Quinnipiac University poll, was greeted on his three-stop tour by local officials eager to lobby for beach renourishment money.
Scott left that money out of his 2011-12 budget proposal and said he was unlikely to support new money for beaches, which are considered vital to tourism, the state's No. 1 industry.
"This is very important to me," Scott said after visiting Lantana's public beach and Palm Beach's Midtown Beach. "I feel comfortable, though, that we have enough money sitting in the Department of Environmental Protection to take care of it this year."
Scott was referring to $75 million in the DEP's budget from previous years for beach restoration. But that money is already earmarked and new money is needed, some beach preservation groups argue.
Although the Senate's 2011-12 budget proposal includes $16.2 million for beach renourishment, there's little doubt that money to repair the state's 825 miles of beaches is drying up. Dan Bates, who oversees restoration programs as Palm Beach County's environmental director, said lawmakers once dedicated $30 million annually to projects statewide.
According to a June report from the DEP, Palm Beach County has 31 miles of beaches that are considered "critically eroded."
"This is about making the governor aware of how important beach renourishment is," said County Commissioner Steven Abrams, who was in Lantana to greet Scott.
Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, asked Scott to take the beach tour, Abrams said. She did not attend because of the legislative session.
Scott began his visit as a guest at The Wall Street Journal/Women in the Economy conference at the Four Seasons in Palm Beach. He then met privately with former Gov. Claude Kirk.
Unlike Monday, when Scott's appearance at an economic forum drew protesters outside the Palm Beach County Convention Center, the governor had little opposition. One woman held a "Scott Go Home" sign in Lantana.
"I just don't agree with him at all," said Carole Fields of Lake Worth. "I think he's trying to destroy the middle class."
But Scott seemed unconcerned about the Quinnipiac poll, which showed that Florida voters disapprove of him by a 48 percent-to-35 percent margin.
"I didn't run to become the most popular governor," he said. "I ran to make sure this state is the most likely to succeed. I'm comfortable that if I follow through on the things that I ran on that we'll get the state back to work."
Scott's last stop Wednesday was Singer Island. Property owners there recently lost a county commission vote to put in breakwaters in an effort to reduce erosion.
While the Singer Island tour was private, the beaches in Lantana and Palm Beach appeared healthy. Midtown Beach got a recent infusion of sand to buttress the dunes. In Lantana, a barrier wall is keeping the popular Dune Deck Cafe from falling into the sea.
But Bates said that sea walls only encourage erosion and that the Midtown Beach project was a short-term solution. A strong storm would undo the repairs, officials said.
Some environmental groups oppose restoration projects such as breakwaters and adding sand to beaches - disturbances they fear can affect turtle nesting.
The Surfrider Foundation successfully fought the county's plan to add breakwaters, which the commission rejected in March.
Fields, the lone protester, said she also disagrees with dumping sand to artificially pump up beaches. So, it turns out, she might actually agree with one of Scott's budget cuts.
"We'll see what else he has to say," Fields said.
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