NEW SMYRNA BEACH, FL – The combined impacts of Hurricane Ian (September 2022), Hurricane Nicole (November 2022), annual nor’easters and significant high tides to coastal properties in New Smyrna Beach, Florida was devastating. The storm surge was so strong that several coastal buildings and single-family homes were deemed “unsafe” and/or “uninhabitable”. Currently, many oceanfront properties are at risk for collapse unless permanent coastal armoring, better known as a sea wall, is permitted.
Frank Murru and Teri Corbett, husband and wife, are local New Smyrna Beach residents and small business owners of Angel Inn the Sand, located at 1100 E Third Ave, New Smyrna Beach, Florida. The oceanfront vacation rental offers four individual apartment style rooms that can be rented nightly. Corbett recalls, “The city told me, my business is going to collapse into the ocean.” Hurricane Ian destroyed the dunes in front of the property. Hurricane Nicole’s forecasted storm surge had the potential to sweep the structure into the ocean.
After Hurricane Ian, Corbett worked with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) for a temporary sea wall permit. “We were nervous the straight up and down construction design the FDEP recommended was going to fail during the next storm,” comments Corbett. Corbett and her husband have backgrounds in commercial aquarium and marine construction. They decided to take action themselves to save their property. Temporary permits can be granted by the FDEP after a significant storm to assist recovery efforts of beachfront property owners.
As Hurricane Nicole drew closer, Corbett and Murru were desperately searching the internet for “emergency sea wall designs”. The search results connected them to Buzz Wade, owner of www.TrapBags.com, a low cost, rapid deploy, engineered flood and erosion control barrier bag system. Corbett was able to rally family, friends and neighbors to help them hand-place 648 bags filled with 60 pounds of concrete mix to build a revetment wall. The design is a tiered structure that provides protection against erosion caused by wave action, storm surge and currents.
“Buzz walked me through the installation,” says Corbett. “I owe him for helping us save our business.” Corbett and the crew were forced to build the wall last minute in windy, rainy conditions and in between the raging high tides.
William “Bill” Roe, owner and Broker Associate of Ocean Properties & Management Inc, located at 3500 S Atlantic Ave in New Smyrna Beach, is also experiencing devastating erosion at his oceanfront home. “I am approximately 15 to 18 feet from my foundation to the duneline,” states Roe who has owned his home for over 40 years. “I have observed the beach change. The FDEP needs to work with homeowners to grant permanent coastal armoring. It is only a matter of time before homes are washed away,” comments Roe.
On December 1, 2022, the FDEP amended an emergency final order (EFO) stating, “emergency authorization for coastal armoring in Volusia County made necessary by Hurricanes Ian and Nicole.” The amended order allows for additional flexibility for the agency to permit seawall structures in Volusia County. FDEP remains the only authority that may issue coastal construction permits for seawalls. This amendment to the EFO now classifies all structures within the developed shorelines of Volusia County between reference monuments R51 to R143 (Amsden Rd. in Ormond Beach south to Inlet Harbor Rd. in Ponce Inlet) and R161 to R194 (Sapphire Ave. south to the Sandpiper Condominium in New Smyrna Beach) as “vulnerable.”
During the weekend of December 10, 2022, Volusia’s coastal communities took on another wave of extreme high tides. It was reported that some temporary sea wall structures failed because of the intense wave action. On December 14, 2022, President Joe Biden officially declared Volusia County, along with other counties in Florida, as a federal disaster area resulting from Hurricane Nicole.
Residents seeking a seawall permit or information regarding reference monuments are encouraged to contact FDEP at 850-245-2094 or 850-245-8570. For a limited time, FDEP staff are available to speak to residents at 440 S. Beach St., Daytona Beach. To view the entire emergency order, request a copy via email at: CCCL@FloridaDEP.gov.
Pictured is Angel Inn the Sand temporary revetment style sea wall using TrapBags