In the aftermath of the 2012 hurricane season, Pinellas beaches are getting a makeover.
The Florida Legislature is setting aside nearly $4 million to renourish Pinellas County beaches for fiscal year 2013-2014, says State Rep. Kathleen Peters of South Pasadena.
In a statement released today, Peters announced the state will assign $3.7 million for Treasure Island and Long Key, along with $13.7 in matching federal funds. The money will go to recharge the 1.4 miles of shoreline of Treasure Island, as well as a 1.6-mile stretch from Upham Beach south to Pass-A-Grille.
Although much of the nation’s attention has been on the effects of Superstorm Sandy on the East Coast, four named storms touching Florida’s Gulf Coast last year is also having a substantial economic effect. Pinellas County beaches and their importance to the local economy could not be left out.
Without funding for the Beach Management Funding Assistance Program, “the state would risk impacting tourism that is leading the economic recovery in our coastal communities and statewide,” Peters’ office says, “and further leave miles of beaches, public infrastructure and upland development vulnerable to the next storm event.”
Pristine beaches make Pinellas County the most popular vacation destination on the west coast of Florida, according to the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. The region attracted nearly 14 million visitors in 2011, generating more than $3.3 billion in wages for 84,400 full-time jobs.
In 2012, the number of visitors increased 4 percent, with an estimated $7.8 billion spent by tourists. This surge of spending has 2012 the best year yet for tourism.
“Florida’s beaches are the primary economic engine that drives the state’s coastal cities and counties,” Peters adds. “Healthy beaches are the most effective and only natural form of storm protection for private and public structures and infrastructure, especially roads, bridges and utilities.”