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State will replace Key Biscayne sand after storm

A Nov. 15, 2023, weather system that packed 60 mph caused beach erosion in Key Biscayne, the Village says.
Courtesy of Key Biscayne
A Nov. 15, 2023, weather system that packed 60 mph caused beach erosion in Key Biscayne, the Village says.

Florida state officials agreed to replace thousands of yards of sand on Key Biscayne after a storm washed part of the beach out to sea earlier this month.

Village Manager Steve Williamson wrote Council members Nov. 17 that the Department of Environmental Protection will pay for up to 25,000 cubic yards of sand – up from 17,000 that was planned during a beach renourishment project next year “We are working out the costs now,” he told Council.

Williamson said the Village will be able to use $1.3 million the agency budgeted for beach renourishment on the island, plus $450,000 in direct appropriations from the Legislature.

In the meantime, Williamson said Key Biscayne will need to use $200,000 from either leftover funds from last fiscal year or the reserve fund. FDEP said any money used for beach renourishment from Village coffers will be reimbursed.

“We just need to front the money now in order to get the great amount of sand and the beach we need to protect our property and provide our residents the recreation space they want,” Williamson wrote in the email.

Surveys of Key Biscayne beaches were scheduled for last week to determine how much additional sand is needed, Williamson said.

The storm that brewed over South Florida for much of last week really ramped up Wednesday night and Thursday with radar showing intense circulation around Key Largo. Wind gusts of nearly 60 mph and as much as seven inches of rain fell on the island.

“I think it was worse than what they anticipated it would be. The degradation of the beach is real,” said Council Member Oscar Sardiñas. “The Village jumped at the opportunity to go back to the state and request more help.”

Key Biscayne Chief Resilience Officer Roland Samimy said “toes” of sea dunes were damaged with a lot of the beach erosion seen from Ocean Club to Grand Bay Residences.

As for the storm itself, it was an anomaly as the hurricane season winds to a close Nov. 30. It was basically a winter storm.“It’s not considered a tropical system because of the way it formed,” said Luke Culver, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

He added the storm was more like a nor’easter, which is more common in the northeastern United States.

The stakes are high when it comes to the 1.25 miles of beaches on Key Biscayne. Government Cut acts like a barrier, blocking the natural flow of new sand to the island, while storms come and whittle the beach away.

A 2021 project aimed to undo the damage of natural erosion — compounded by Hurricane Irma four years ago — by bringing in 31,000 cubic yards of sand, nearly one third of which was paid for by the Village. It followed renourishment projects of various amounts in 2017, 2012, 2008, 2007, 2002 and an U.S. Army Corps of Engineers effort in 1987.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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