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Sand dollars

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Already, opponents of federal programs that protect the coastline see disaster as an opportunity to spit in the wind about why the rest of the country should leave Florida and other coastal states out on a limb.

There’s no time like the present to remind our legislators how much we love the sand in our shoes, and what a bad idea it is to stop spending money replacing the sand that washes away – at least until we can find a better way.

For instance, in the October issue of “Florida Trend,” the Duke University beach guru named Orrin Pilkey, points to the loss of sand along the beaches and pokes at the federal government for “their stupid act of building along a receding shoreline” even though he admits in his writings that renourishment is the best – if not perfect – option in keeping our beaches.

Of course, there are many who argue – and who will do so loudly and forcibly in the next legislative season – that we should allow nature to take its course, or barring that, let the state and local governments pay for their own beach. These legislators typically don’t live in coastal areas and have to speak to their own constituents about the millions spent on what boils down to disposable beaches.

You can understand.

However, the professor’s argument joins others who say only wealthy people live along the shoreline, and they can afford to pay for their own beach, and that’s the reason why the states should take on the entire burden of the renourishment.

There was 150,000 cubic yards of sand pumped on the north end of St. Pete Beach – Upham Beach – this summer, at a cost of $4 million. The price tag gets shared by federal, state and county. It’s a huge chunk of change for the local government alone and such a burden would certainly endanger the entire program, administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The feds are not wasteful, either. Working on everything from navigation to military facilities throughout the country and abroad, the Corps know how to say “No.”

The historic fort at Egmont Key is literally falling into the gulf and yet, because “valuable” assets aren’t on the island (there are no private homes) it gets $0.

Also under scrutiny is the federal flood insurance program. Again, using the professor’s argument because he is so well regarded, he says the insurance is too cheap!

You and I know there are a lot of people who struggle to pay their federal flood insurance, and they spend a lot of hard earned cash jumping through hoops to obey federal regulations so they don’t lose FEMA insurance and so, yes, they can live by the coastline.

A lot of people who live inland don’t have the insurance, though, and the money paid by the insured pay for much of their recovery.

The whole argument concerning the coast really has no place at this time. You don’t have to live in a cave to see that the shoreline was not the only thing hard hit by the hurricanes, and it’s not the only place where rich people live, it’s definitly not only rich people living there, and it’s certainly not the only area receiving federal funds right now.

When I was a little girl, my best friend was my next door neighbor – an old Italian man with a heart of gold. When I would plead with him not to go to work, he would say, “No work, no money, no shoes.”

When our “experts” start asking why the feds should pay for our beaches, we might say the same. With no beaches, Florida might just lose its shoes, and that would spiral into an economic tragedy that would take more than FEMA to fix.

Mary Burrell is managing editor and editor of the Beach Beacon and Seminole Beacon.
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