A Florida Senate panel approved a $50 million coastal renourishment plan Monday, setting the stage for a long and expensive rehabilitation of the state's Hurricane Irma-battered beaches.

  • $50 million coastal renourishment plan under consideration
  • Money would go to local govts. to deal with beach erosion
  • Irma may have costs hundreds of million in erosion impact

The storm effectively cut the size of many beaches, particularly those along Florida's west coast, in half. The legislation (SB 174) that passed the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee requires the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to prioritize renourishment of beaches suffering from the worst erosion.

The funding would be included in the 2018-19 state budget and would primarily be funneled to cities and counties, which oversee most of the beaches.

While a statewide estimate of Irma's coastal erosion impacts is not yet available, some conservationists expect it to total hundreds of millions of dollars. A recent renourishment project in Miami Beach that dumped new sand along eight blocks of beach carried a price tag of $11 million, underscoring the steep costs involved in combating erosion.

Sen. Dorothy Hukill (R-Port Orange), whose district spans Volusia and Brevard counties on Florida's east coast, suggested after Monday's vote that the state will eventually need to devote much more money to the renourishment efforts.

"The erosion in Volusia is incredible, you know, the seaweed, the garbage that's coming up from the hurricane in Brevard," Hukill said. "Brevard got a lot of flooding, a lot of water main breaks, they were very, very badly hit. So, this is important for us."