Dennis Jones’ last session very good for Gulf Beaches

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State Sen. Dennis Jones may be leaving office but his final year will be remembered for a long time as a good one for Pinellas County beach interests, reports Bob McClure.

Jones is leaving office due to term limits but calls the end to his long legislative career a banner year as far as the beaches go.

“The governor had $10 million in the budget for beaches but (State) Representative (Jim) Frishe and I, by working with the (Florida Shore and Beach Preservation Association), got it to $22 million,” Jones told members of the Barrier Islands Governmental Council. “When we match it with federal dollars, it will give us $58 million (for fiscal 2013).”

Unlike a year ago, Frishe said Scott better understands the need for maintaining the state’s beaches.

“The governor finally understands beaches are the seed corn for the state’s tourism,” said Frishe. “That’s what makes our economy in the Bay area tick, particularly here in Pinellas County.”

Jones said the fiscal 2013 money would help the state to fund seven beach nourishment projects, including a $5.6 million effort at Honeymoon Island State Park that will start in the fall.

This will be the first beach upgrade to the popular park since 2008 when it received nourishment and T-head erosion control structures. This time around there will be more structural upgrades, said Andy Squires, coastal manager at Pinellas County Environment and Infrastructure.

Jones said he expected beach nourishment funding to slowly return at the state level. Most of the funding comes from the documentary tax stamp collections.

“It’s not where we need it to be but we haven’t removed the statutory language,” Jones said. “So as the economy comes back, funding will grow.”

Frishe said beach interests got a major shot in the arm this session with the passage of the Dennis Jones Beach and Preservation Act, which streamlines the permit process with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for nourishment projects. Among other things, the measure repealed a law that required a permit when taking a (beach sand) core sample.

By passing the legislation, it lowers the cost of nourishment and puts projects on a faster time cycle.

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Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.