INDIAN ROCKS BEACH, Fla. — The Pinellas public works director will present county commissioners with beach renourishment funding options at a workshop on Thursday, which shows the account will run out of money in a few years without a sharing program in place, according to a financial overview summary.

What You Need To Know

  • Pinellas County has 35 miles of beach with 21.4 miles critically eroded 

  • It would cost the county $57 million to renourish Sand Key next year

  • The TDC voted in May to increase their allocation of a penny tax for the beach account

  • In May, the Corps denied the county's request for a temporary easement waiver for beachfront homeowners; Read the Beach Nourishment Program Update Presentation below

“The Army Corps has taken a very strong stand on beach renourishment,” said Commissioner Janet Long. “In the future, it looks like a lot of our beach renourishment activities are going to have to be totally funded on our own.”  

Pinellas County has 35 miles of beach with 21.4 miles critically eroded and 12 miles get restored regularly, according to public works. This past May, the Army Corps of Engineers denied the county’s request for a temporary easement waiver for beachfront homeowners.

Since 2018, the Corps has required all homeowners sign the permanent easement to get federal funds for sand. Indian Rocks Beach Mayor Cookie Kennedy said only about half of the Sand Key homeowners have signed the easement.

“When we found out that 100 percent of the easements had to be signed,” she said. “We knew that was setting us up for failure.”

Sand Key stretches from Clearwater Pass to John’s Pass and was scheduled to get beach renourishment next year. However, the Corps has put an indefinite hold on the project due to the lacking easements. Pinellas Public Works Director Kelli Levy said it would cost the county $57 million to renourish Sand Key.

In the past, the Corps has paid for about 60 percent of beach renourishment with the county and state splitting the remaining 40 percent as long as there’s a federal partner. Public works analysis shows if the county funds 100 percent of beach renourishment projects going forward there would be a $7 million deficit by fiscal year 2027 and the fund does not recover based on current Tourist Development Council allocations.

At the TDC meeting in May, member Phil Henderson said he remembered a similar presentation from Levy last year.

“Without the Corps assistance on Sand Key and that particular stretch we would run out of money by 2030, I believe, 2031, on our projected track,” he said. “That’s why I suggested we start saving more should that be the case.”

The TDC currently has $32.8 million in its beach account. Henderson made a motion to raise the allocation from a half penny to three-quarters and it was approved unanimously. For the increase to take effect, county commissioners must also approve it and they rejected a similar measure last year, according to Henderson.

“I really think we need to start moving some money over to that,” he said. “It can always be moved back.”

The slight increase in the penny tax allocation will bring an extra $4 million to the beach account this fiscal year, according to the TDC. Mayor Kennedy said she’s happy the county has been working on a backup plan but said she’s not giving up on the Corps.

“We are doing everything possible to make changes and convince the Corps that we need this project done,” she said. “I’m not giving up hope.”

At the TDC meeting, Long said she’s trying to set up another face-to-face sit-down at the White House with the Corps.

“The going back and forth on email and the letters,” she said. “It’s almost like we’re talking apples and oranges.”

Kennedy said the Corps has denied beach renourishment to 11 other Florida counties and they’re all banding together. The Corps has been taking the easement seriously and has put on hold beach renourishment scheduled this fall for Treasure Island, Long Key and Pass-A-Grille until easement status has been confirmed, according to public works.