U.S. Rep. David Jolly is urging the House of Representatives to support the Senate version of a bill that extends the five-decade Treasure Island beach re-nourishment project.
When the House considered the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013, it did not include funds for Pinellas County beach re-nourishment, a program that has been in the budget for more than 50 years. The bill is currently in conference.
In a speech on the House floor, the Indian Rocks Republican asked to reinstate funding for the Treasure Island beaches, which he says is necessary to enhance the local economy and represents an investment to ensure the area remains a sought-after attraction for domestic and international visitors.
“Like many of the infrastructure projects Congress takes on,” Jolly said in a statement, “our nation has made a long-term investment in the safety and prosperity of our Pinellas community through this project, and similar projects up and down the coastline.
“Stable beaches protect public and private infrastructure along our coastline, and the communities that call them home. Beach re-nourishment provides a flood buffer, which is vital for protecting both lives and property during severe storms and hurricanes.”
Beach tourism is one of Florida’s leading industries, serving approximately 38.4 million out-of-state visitors who head to Florida beaches each year.
Florida welcomes more beach visitors than all U.S. National Parks combined, and since Pinellas County is surrounded by water, Jolly pointed out that deteriorating coastline translates into lost jobs and income, leading to “economic uncertainty.”
“In Pinellas County alone, tourism officials estimate that visitors bring a $7.3 billion economic impact annually,” Jolly said. “Our community simply cannot afford to have our beaches deteriorate from coastal erosion.”
Using the example of the National Flood Insurance Program, a program that benefits the entire nation, Jolly also remarked that Florida remains a significant donor state to the NFIP, in part because of the security provided by beach construction projects from damage caused by hurricanes and other storms.
“Just as Congress supports national infrastructure projects in other regions, like maintaining ports and waterways and flood control along rivers and streams, we need Congress to make sure that our country’s 50-year investment in our Pinellas coastal community remains protected,” Jolly concluded.
Video of Jolly’s remarks is available on YouTube.