Beach Nourishment Gets the Axe
By Nick Fritsch
Beaches provide great places for recreation and even solitude. But we likely overlook the fact that they also play a key role in public safety. Beaches can save lives and reduce infrastructure, environmental and property damage during severe storms and hurricanes. They do this by dissipating wave energy. During a storm, waves will break on the sandbar and on the beach, not on Gulf Blvd and beach infrastructure . When they do that, they reduce the amount of damage and insurance costs in our state. Whether you live at the beach or simply enjoy driving in for the day, we all utilize the beach infrastructure (roads, utilities, shops and restaurants). So the number one reason to maintain adequate beaches is to protect this valuable public infrastructure.
At the present, this session of the state legislature plans to cut funding for beach nourishment by one third from $30,000,000 per year to $19 million. You may scoff, that still is a waste of money! Before you do, consider if the beaches are eroded and significant storm or hurricane damage occurs, what happens to all of our insurance rates? We are all being high jacked in our homeowners and property damage insurance for the storms and hurricanes of 2004 and 2005. And now, with many of the beach properties insured by Citizens, the state insurer of last resort, you and I are the ones who will be left to pay. An auto mechanic would say, "Do you want to pay for an oil change or a new engine?"
Tourism drives the economy of both Florida and Clearwater. Sales taxes from tourism add $3.4 billion to the state coffers. That is tax money which we, residents and owners, would have to pay in lieu of the tourist generated sales taxes. Let me do the math. It will cost the state $30 million to reduce the total tax bill by $3.4 billion.
Looking at this in another economic perspective: if I give you 3 cents; you will give me $3.40. Yes, I'll take that bet every time. Why are they planning to reduce public safety and cut an income source?
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