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Florida property owners want compensation for beach reinforcement measures

It is the culmination of a long legal battle that started six years ago when five owners from Destin in the Panhandle claimed that when sand was added to the beach it created a 75 foot wide barrier between their homes and the sea and resulted in a lowering of their property values as they are further from the water.

They formed an action group, Stop the Beach Renourishment, and are claiming that the replenishment project has unconstitutionally separated them from the sea and that the fifth and 14th amendments to the Constitution prohibit taking private property ‘for public use, without just compensation’.

But Florida's Department of Environmental Protection argues that pouring new sand onto a beach at government expense actually protects properties and they don’t need to compensate home owners as they still have access to the water.

Erosion is a big problem in Florida with one in four properties within 500 feet of the coast likely to be affected in the next 50 years.

If the Panhandle real estate owners are successful it could prove costly for the State which already spends millions tackling erosion along the state’s 825 miles of beaches that are subject to storms and hurricanes.

Officials are also warning that already expensive beach replenishment projects could become even more costly if state governments are forced to reimburse landowners for lost property.

The Destin project cost $15 million, with the state paying $4 million and local governments paying $11 million.

Since replenishment projects began in the 1970s, Florida has restored more than 200 miles of beaches in 61 projects.
In court papers, 27 other states, from California and Washington to Mississippi and Maine, sided with Florida's state and local governments.

Officials in those states said the suit filed by the residents is ‘ill conceived’ and would ‘undermine the states’ well established and traditional authority to determine the scope of their own property laws’.