VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. — John Reny was willing to ignore the inconveniences a hurricane can bring to a beachfront property. Damaged patio furniture, broken spa pipes and a shattered storm shutter were all dismissed as easily repairable.
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What he couldn’t overlook is the dozens of feet of natural sand dune missing from the back of his house, washed into the sea by back-to-back hurricanes.
“It’s a train wreck,” he said, pointing to the edge of his patio. “I have about 18 feet behind my little wall here. Behind that little wall is a 10 foot drop off straight down to the beach.”
It’s a change Reny said the area hadn’t seen in decades.
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As he climbed down the ladder descending from his destroyed access boardwalk to the sand, Reny described the vision he and his neighbors had drawn up: restoring the dunes in record time to their natural, pre-autumn look.
To do this, he said, plans called for 2,000-pound coquina boulders to be laid at the foot of the dunes, followed by a small mountain of sand piled on top of them. Lastly, he said, plants would be added to take root and hold the sand in place, as they had before Ian and Nicole tore through.
The goal is to have this done before sea turtle nesting season, when expectant mothers climb out of the waves in Volusia County to lay eggs at night.
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“The turtles come out of the water to nest, they get around that fluffy sand and they nest like they normally would do,” he said.
However, plans have been held up by red tape in Tallahassee. Reny and his neighbors said workers at some agencies, like the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, expressed concerns that the turtles wouldn’t like the boulders should one get exposed.
They said they felt that the state wasn’t treating their emergency application as an emergency, after being told it would be processed in months instead of weeks. That’s a problem, they explained, because the temporary Tiger Dams lining the shoreline right now are scheduled to be dismantled in May.
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“Everything that’s done on the beach right now is all temporary,” Reny said. “There are no permits issued for permanent solutions on the beach that I’m aware of right now.”
During a press conference Wednesday, members of the DeSantis administration said they were working to expedite applications.
“Normal left a long time ago,” Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Shawn Hamilton said. “We’re challenging all of our teams to do everything we can do get the necessary information to permit safe, reliable habitat-protective structures as quick and effectively as possible.”
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That, along with the news that more than $37 million would be coming to Volusia County for dune restoration, was music to Reny’s ears. He said he did not want to put a seawall in front of his home, which he is afraid he’ll be pushed to do.
“If something’s not done on a permanent basis, we’re spinning our wheels,” he said. “The ocean… it’s going to get rebuilt in time, but not 10 feet.”
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