Florida Beach Dispute Reaches U.S. Supreme Court
FORT MYERS, FL - Although the U.S. Supreme Court case entitled "Stop the Beach Renourishment v. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection et al." is a Florida issue, it will likely have national implications. The court will decide whether state legislation to restore eroded beaches constitutes a regulatory taking or violates the Fifth Amendment.
This case stems from a beach restoration project conducted in partnership between the city of Destin and Walton County, Florida, in 2006-2007. In this case, four property owners are claiming the state of Florida violated their property rights by establishing an erosion control line on the beach behind their homes. This line (based on historic erosion rates prior to a beach restoration project) defines the pre-project boundary between upland private ownership and seaward state ownership of the renourished beach.
By law, in Florida the state holds all lands seaward of mean high water in common trust for everyone. After a beach project is constructed, all lands landward of the erosion control line are privately owned as they were before the project, and all lands seaward of it are state-owned as they were before the project. However, the state lands now include some of the dry sandy beach.
The two primary complaints by the property owners driving this case are: (1) the erosion control line separates them from the water and changes their property from Gulf-front to Gulf-view; and (2) the erosion control line will cause them to lose future accretion of sand on the beach. The hearing for the case is slated to take place before the highest court in the land on Dec. 2.
"A number of other states have similar processes as Florida for establishing erosion control lines," said Brad Pickel, president of Seahaven Consulting and a consultant for Walton County. "So, if the Florida line is ruled illegal, there is a possibility that several other states will have a problem with their lines as well."
On Aug. 19, the executive committee of the American Shore & Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA) voted unanimously to financially support the joint amicus brief filed by the Florida Shore & Beach Preservation Association, the Florida Association of Counties and the Florida League of Cities. This brief is one of more than 20 briefs that have been filed in regards to this case, further illustrating the national implications of the Supreme Court's ruling.
ASBPA president Harry Simmons stated: "While the case before the court is technically a Florida matter, the results of the case could have implications for coastal communities nationwide. ASBPA is dedicated to the efforts of our members in Florida and elsewhere who are working hard to maintain, protect and enhance the coasts of America. We believe the state of Florida is correct in its approach to restoring beaches and hope the high court agrees."
(This information is provided by the American Shore & Beach Preservation Association.)
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