FDEP Secretary Shawn Hamilton assesses dunes impacts, pledges hurricane recovery support to Flagler County

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November 15, 2022 – Following up on his visit as part of the governor’s team late last week, Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Shawn Hamilton returned to Flagler County Tuesday to further assess damages from the pier north to Washington Oaks Gardens State Park. He pledged hurricane recovery support to the county.

“The response from Governor Ron DeSantis and his team – Division of Emergency Management, Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Transportation including the District 5 secretary – has been absolutely amazing,” said County Administrator Heidi Petito. “We truly appreciate all the time they have taken with us. FDOT (District 5) Secretary John Tyler addressed Flagler Beach last night, and Secretary Hamilton spent a couple of hours with us this morning. We are grateful.”

Hamilton got a firsthand look at the damages sustained to Flagler’s fragile dune system during a tour with Petito, Deputy County Administrator Jorge Salinas, General Services Director Mike Dickson, and County Engineer Faith Alkhatib.

“He is very thoughtful, reasonable, down-to-earth, and easy to talk to,” Alkhatib said of Hamilton. “He will be great to work with. We talked about emergency sand, and he said the state has $20 million for four counties. I stressed to him our readiness to proceed with emergency work that will protect our residents and county, including infrastructure.”

Hamilton took in flat sandy expanses that were once dunes and multiple areas where the ocean breached dunes, flooding homes and infrastructure – like the MalaCompra drainage system.

“I asked Secretary Hamilton to look at the reimbursement process for the emergency sand that will protect us from smaller events like nor’easters and asked him to waive the local match,” Alkhatib said. “I asked him to waive the 50% local match for the $3.7 million available from Matthew. This would enhance the current FEMA post Dorian project which will rebuild the dunes south of Washington Oaks to beyond MalaCompra Park.”

This project is to repair damages from Hurricane Dorian. It is currently out for bid. Construction is expected to begin in January 2023.

“Flagler County is also asking FDEP for $78 million for recovery from Ian and to waive the local match,” Alkhatib said. “We understand there is going to be an emergency legislative meeting about this. I believe he will be a strong advocate for us after seeing our damages in person. It made a difference.”

By Julie Murphy

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