Flagler County officials share sand dune restoration plan with public

By Brittany Jones, Reporter
Last Updated: Friday, March 10, 2017, 1:03 PM EST

Flagler County is on the fast track to get sand dunes back in place after Hurricane Matthew washed them away.

"Everyone is very afraid without a dune, what is our protection from the ocean," said Ann Butler.
 
Butler has been living in Flagler's Hammock area for 12 years. She helps maintain what used to be the community's beautiful garden at the Hammock Community Center.

"We were all just heartbroken. We had spent thousands of hours,” she said. “We planned this garden and planted this garden that, until the hurricane, was absolutely beautiful and it was also partially memorial garden where (it) had trees and plants and gardens in memory of people like commissioner Frank Meeker and other loved ones.”

On Thursday, the county continued a series of meetings to let residents know exactly what it plans to do to replenish the dunes. 

During Hurricane Matthew, the dunes were breached, wiped out and salt water killed vegetation around the now dried out area.

"You're kind of at ground zero and from this point to our northern county line all the dunes got pushed inward and all these areas were inundated with water," said Coffey.

The county and engineers are working with homeowners to rebuild the dunes along a 12-mile stretch.

Since only a few miles of the area are considered public, the county needs permission to work on properties it doesn’t own.

Butler said the work is much needed.

"We had beautiful wide beaches, we had a very wide dune through most of the county the dune is decimated. There's very little dune left," she said.

"On the dune front, what we trying to do is put that protective barrier back in place so they have some assurance that in the course of a normal storm they aren't going to get flooded again and relive this year after year," said Craig Coffey, a Flagler County administrator.
 
Coffey said each property probably lost about 18.9 cubic yards of sand during the storm. The phase 1 plan includes adding 6 cubic yards back and, if approved for more funding later, the county will add about 8 cubic yards or more back to individual properties.

"If you think about it as armoring, one chink in the armor could allow the ocean water to come in and still do the same devastating effects dunes and dunes protection is a team sport," said Coffey.

It will average out to a $21,000 investment of sand to each property.

Butler said if that is what it takes to bring back this area as they work together, then she is all in.
 
"We are so eager to get things moving again because storms are always a threat so the sooner we get the dunes up and planted to whatever they need to do to stabilize the dunes is going to be long process," said Butler.

The county plans to start phase one of the work in April.

More meetings will be held to include the other property owners.