By DOTTY NIST
The State of Florida has plans to modify the Coastal Construction Control Line (CCCL) that has been in existence in Walton County since 1982.
The CCCL is a jurisdictional line that sets a boundary along the beach. Seaward, or in Walton County’s case, gulfward of the CCCL, a state CCCL permit is required in order for construction to occur, whether a structure as large as a hotel is involved, or as small as a dune walkover.
According to Florida Administrative Code, approval or denial of a CCCL permit application is based on an evaluation of potential impacts of the proposed construction on the beach dune system, adjacent properties, native vegetation, and sea turtles.
The stated purpose of the CCCL program is to protect Florida’s beaches and dunes while providing for private beachfront property to be used in a reasonable manner. The CCCL defines the area where, according to scientific calculations, severe impact would occur in the event of a 100-year storm. Because of this potential impact, construction and related activities in the jurisdictional area bounded by the CCCL are subject to special siting and design criteria.
According to 1995 surveys by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), after Hurricane Opal caused severe damage all along the Panhandle, results of the CCCL program were definitely favorable. Panhandle structures along the coast that had not been permitted in the program suffered a damage rate of 40 percent, while permitted structures encountered only a 0.35- percent damage rate.
On March 3, DEP officials held a public workshop in south Walton County on a proposed change to the CCCL now in existence along the Walton County coastline. Roughly a dozen people attended, many of them beachfront property owners.
Mike Barnett, chief of the Bureau of Beaches and Coastal Systems, gave a brief history of the agency’s regulatory program on the coastline, which he said began in 1970 with a 50-foot construction setback from the mean high water line. In 1971, he continued, a Coastal Construction Setback Line (CCSL) was established by order of the Florida Legislature in each of the state’s 24 coastal counties with sandy beaches, with the aim of protecting a portion of the beach/dune system from development or encroachment. In 1978, Barnett noted, the Legislature decided to replace that setback line with a jurisdictional line instead, the CCCL, and directed that the line be established through new procedures.
According to Gene Chalecki, program administrator for the bureau, Walton County was one of the first counties in the state where the CCCL was established. This occurred in 1982, not long after the 1978 directive by the Legislature. At that time, Walton County’s coastline was largely undeveloped, he recalled.
“That’s the line that you all have today,” he said.
Barnett explained that, in the wake of coastal impact from the 2004-2005 Tropical Season, the state Department of Community Affairs’ Coastal High Hazard Committee had become concerned about the effectiveness of existing CCCLs in protecting life, property, and the beach and dune system.
According to the committee’s final report in 2006, “Preliminary evaluation indicates the established CCCL no longer defines the impact of the 100-year return interval storm (100-year storm) event in multiple areas of the panhandle, including Gulf County (most notably the St. Joe Peninsula), Santa Rosa, Escambia, Franklin, Okaloosa and Walton Counties.”
The committee recommended a re-study of the CCCL in those areas, using updated numerical models, along with rulemaking procedures to re-establish the CCCL in areas where that was determined to be needed.
Barnett said that, along with Walton County, other areas where CCCL re-establishment is being proposed include Gulf County and Franklin County/Dog Island. The existing CCCL was determined to be adequate in Okaloosa County, but ongoing study in Escambia County indicates that re-establishment may be proposed in that county also, he commented.
Todd Walton, director of the Beaches and Shores Research Center, spoke on the studies that his center conducts to recommend re-establishment locations for the CCCL. Procedures include simulation of future storm events based on storm history, survey of beach and offshore topography, and calculation of erosion and wave damage. Factored into the research are erosion trends, vegetation, and existing shoreline structures.
Walton noted that a 100-year storm event by definition has a one-percent chance of occurring each year.
He added that the center’s studies have not considered future sea level rise, which many scientists believe will accelerate, translating to additional beach loss.
Maps were available at the workshop so that property owners and other interested persons could view the currently existing CCCL for Walton County and the proposed change.
Chalecki commented that 96 properties in Walton County would be affected by the change, and that the line is being proposed to shift approximately 30 feet or less landward in those areas. Affected areas are in the central part of the county shoreline, from Beach Highlands/Dune Allen to Seagrove, he noted. The line is not being proposed to move gulfward in any instance, he explained. Within the state parks, the CCCL is being proposed to move more than 30 feet landward in some cases, he added.
Exemptions to the requirement for a CCCL permit will be provided on new properties being included in the CCCL in cases where construction begins before the CCCL re-establishment, Chalecki said. Existing buildings will be grandfathered, and improvements to those structures that are made within the existing foundation limits, excluding foundation work, will also be exempt.
Also exempt will be activities “not determined to cause measurable interference or adverse impact to the coastal system,” with the example being given of swimming pool repair not involving excavation.
Homeowner Rodney Durand asked how the proposed project for large-scale nourishment of the beaches along CR-30A would affect the CCCL. Barnett responded that it would have no impact, since these projects are not designed to protect against a 100-year storm occurrence. Typically their protection is limited to 15-20 years, he explained.
Durand then asked if the re-establishment of the CCCL would be used as proof of the loss of wildlife habitat. “It is not going to be used for that,” Barnett answered.
Beachfront homeowner Sherry Chase expressed concern about how the CCCL re-establishment could limit her ability to build on her property.
Some property owners in attendance were interested in objecting to the proposed CCCL change. Chalecki’s response was that they were entitled to do so, but that they would be required to challenge a scientific study, which would be a difficult task.
He explained that such a challenge by citizens had occurred in Pinellas County, but that it had proved unsuccessful.
Chalecki commented on March 5 that information on the proposed CCCL change in Walton County would be available for viewing on the Bureau of Beaches and Coastal Systems Web site the following week at www.dep.state.fl.us/beaches. The Web site also features other information on the CCCL program. Information is also available by calling the bureau at (850) 488-7708.