County misses state funding for beach erosion relief

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In late June, the Gulf County Board of County Commissioners applied for state local support grant funding they hoped to put towards supplying emergency sand to rapidly eroding beaches on Cape San Blas.

They were denied that funding earlier this month.

At a special meeting called September 7, County Administrator Michael Hammond said that the county was not awarded any money in the funding round.

“'I got a heads up yesterday that we were probably on the upside down list, and I got the final approved list today, and of course we did not get funded for that sand project we turned in,” Hammond said at the meeting. “We didn't we didn't get any funding out of this latest round.”

Hammond continued to say that the county had expected the funding to come through, after discussing prospects with State Representative Jason Shoaf, who recommended they apply for the funding round and acted as a sponsor for the request.

“Well, we were kind of under the impression when we turned it in and we spent a little bit of time on it,” said Hammond. “So it kind of chaps that we thought they would  equally divide that money between the 120 House districts, and it appears that some of the House districts didn't get anything.”

The county requested $500,000 for the project, which they intended to use to fill enough sand onto the most imperiled beaches to protect endangered structures in the area until underwater breakwater structures, which have already been funded, can be put into place.

These efforts came after citizens raised concerns about erosion near houses by the Sunrise Sunset block on the Cape’s South end, which residents fear could be badly damaged or swept away in a large storm.

Projects in neighboring Bay County received more than $13.7 million in funding from the grant program, including $6 million to go towards water quality restoration at Lullwater Lake Basin, $2.8 million to go towards Florida State University’s Panama City campus and $2.5 million for a new helicopter at the Bay County Sheriff’s Office.

“I guess we’ll just have to pray harder next time,” said Sandy Quinn, the chairman of the board.

The commissioners did approve a bid to complete a beach berm restoration project that has been underway on Gulf County beaches for almost a year — awarding the contract to North Florida Construction, who will complete the restoration along the beaches at the Cape’s North end.

“This is the portion from Rish Park north at the Cape,” said County Engineer Clayton Smallwood. 

This project will not provide any additional sand to the areas of concern that would have been addressed by the missing state funding.

Commissioner Phillip McCroan added that “I’ve had some calls, and we’ve had this project bid out way ahead of time. I know we’ve got some erosion around Cape Palms, but we can’t change the scope of this work.”

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