Doug Underhill’s Responses to resident’s questions prior to Perdido Key Association meeting on Feb. 27, 2021

Linda,
Thanks for the questions. The “beach renourishment” question is one of the big issuesof Perdido Key. The State Renourishment program requires citizens to give away their property rights south of the dunes. Here on the Key, the private ownership of some of the beach is one of the defenses against commercialization of Perdido Key. If we ever lose that private ownership, there is nothing to stop a future Commission that is trying to
raise revenues from allowing vendors on the beach. There are plenty of beaches in Florida for those who want to bring the hustle and bustle to the beach…Perdido Key is one of the last pristine examples of what a Florida beach once was. I promised I would fight for personal property rights on Perdido Key, which is why I stopped the efforts to use the State Renourishment Program (a land grab in sheep’s clothing) and worked
with the State, Navy, Chamber of Commerce, Department of the Interior, and the Corps of Engineers to create the Pensacola Inlet Management Program. The Program began with a $5000 seed from my discretionary fund, which the county staffer Tim Day used to win a state grant of $330,000 in 2018 to complete the Inlet Management Study. This Inlet Management Study formed the backbone of the NRDA grant request that we submitted in 2020 and was approved just this month. The grant details can be found
here https://www.gulfspillrestoration.noaa.gov/sites/default/files/2021-
02%20FL%20Final%20Draft%20Florida%20TIG%20Restoration%20Plan%20

2_Environ mental%20Assessment_508.pdf. Page 43 discusses this project, which awards $6.7 million to place 400,000 cubic yards of sand on Johnson Beach, primarily in an area called the “swash zone” (more on that in a minute). That document also lays out the timeline for implementation.
As you may be aware, our island was created by the East-to-West migration of sand, which over time built a permanent sandbar that became Perdido Key. Back then the Pensacola pass was very shallow, and sands coming from Pensacola Beach did not come to rest in the pass. The sand that did stop there was washed back out in the next significant rain event. This formed the shallow area to the west of the pass known as the Caucus Shoals. This wide, shallow sand bar, constantly buffeted by waves, served as a
perpetual “feeder beach” which allowed sand to continue its westward migration by wave action. This accretion of sand on our shores maintained a strong and healthy island for hundreds of years.
When the Navy and commercial interests started dredging the pass ever wider and deeper, they interrupted this natural flow, and the long, slow starvation of sand began. Today’s erosion problems are a direct result of this interruption of a natural process.
Thanks to the Inlet Management Program, all future dredges will place the sand in the “swash zone” of Johnson Beach. The swash zone is defined as the near shore area where the wave action moves the sand bottom.
To answer your question regarding Sally, no, there were no setbacks to this project. In fact, the two breaches in the Key and the exposure of ancient peat bogs (think of this as the organic “backbone” of the island) was a stark reminder to NRDA that we have no time to waste in building this project. Those most vulnerable areas of the island will be the first benefactors of the project.
Other Lessons learned from Sally:
1) Perdido Key Drive, now county owned, was repaired within days of the storm. That is unheard of in our history, and the repairs were reimbursed by FEMA.
2) Nearly the entire power infrastructure was wiped out. Damage was more widespread than Ivan, yet we had power restored all the way to the state line in record time. This is a direct result of the new strategy implemented by County Administrator Janice Gilley.
3) Trash cleanup was faster than Ivan by half. This was a result of the new county strategy of using large, professional contractors instead of the Bubba Army with clapped out trailers and trucks.
4) Looting was statistically nonexistent. This is a direct result of the Sheriff’s strategy of keeping the island open and patrolling in unmarked cars. While some were opposed to the termination of the “owner’s stickers” and the strategy that went with them, it is clear that the new process is far better. We, the owners on Perdido, are the best defenders of his island and our way of life.
Regarding the PKA Survey: You can expect that it will live in the top drawer of my desk, as its predecessor has. You can expect that it will continue to be one of the core reference documents, along with the HCP [Habitat Conservation Plan] and the PKMP [Perdido Key Master Plan], that define my actions regarding this island.
Regarding the survey, let’s run through the “Quick Look” on page 3:
On the lifestyle front, the people are pretty much right where they were 5 and 10 years ago. Preservation and Stewardship are still more important than amenities and entertainment.
Development: The support numbers were about what I expected, but I was alarmed to see the low numbers for the PKMP. This was a PKA initiative, it is one of the key protections for the island, and it is the vehicle by which we are able to win grants for things like the Bike Path. The PKA should seriously consider an education plan among its members and the community to rebuild the support for the PKMP. If we lose it,
create a major chink in the armor of preservation and stewardship.
Getting Around: No changes in the strategy for traffic. Now that the 4-lane is dead forever, the focus on safety and improvements is going well. Expect final plans for the traffic circle at Johnson Beach in the next couple months.
Wildlife and Environment: This one we gotta discuss on Saturday. This should be a huge red flag for the membership. The Habitat Conservation Plan is the most important document to protect our way of life. PKA needs a serious informational push to remind the members and the citizens that it was a tiny little mouse that saved this island from becoming the new Destin. When I hear people rant about “that damn rodent” I am amazed at how little the speaker understands the part it plays in preventing the greedy
from paving paradise and putting up a parking lot.
Government and Security: No surprises here. The Firehouse is all repaired, the new Sheriff re-opened the substation, so things are moving in the right direction.
Beachfront: No surprises here. I think most people understand there is no beach renourishment without easements, and the Inlet Management Program will solve much of the erosion problem.
Community: It is time to get very serious about incorporating greater Perdido Key. The political power of Escambia County is focused on keeping the status quo…with PK as the cash cow that pays for their spending habits. I agree with the 75% of the respondents who believe Perdido Key does not need to try to be the “next best thing”… we just need to
focus on being the best we can as stewards of our environment and protectors of our way of life.
Look forward to seeing everyone on Saturday,
Respectfully,
Doug

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