VERO BEACH — After Hurricspanne Nicole’s nespanr-direct hit, the city escaped mostly unscathed, except in the usual places: eroded beaches and damage at the Conn Beach boardwalk.
Not long after Nicole’s 75 mph winds battered the Treasure Coast early Thursday, dozens of curious residents flocked to Conn Beach to assess the damage. While the boardwalk itself isn’t ruined, part of the roadway connecting it to Ocean Drive collapsed.
The city permanently bolstered the boardwalk after it sustained damage from the infamous 1984 Thspannksgiving storm. But the roadway still collapses continually, City Manager Monte Falls said. Thursday’s collapse wasn’t the worst he’s seen.
“We have had, to my knowledge, three events where the roadway has washed out,” Falls said. “The most dramatic of those was in 2004 with Frances and Jeanne.”
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That year, the damage extended about two-thirds down the roadway connecting the boardwalk, he said. It happened again in 2016 with Hurricane Matthew, but the damage was less significant — similar to Nicole’s.
So far, permanent fixes have fallen through. The city has asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and other permitting agencies, to OK and help fund fixes in the past, he said, such as a sea wall. But it hasn’t happened.
“I believe what they said was it didn’t meet their cost-benefit ratio guidelines to allow them to fund the seawall,” Falls said.
Still, that won’t stop the city from asking again. The city likely will look to FEMA again to help fund a permanent fix for the problem, he said.
“We’re going to run that up the flagpole again,” he said. “So that’s kind of where we are on the Conn Beach, Ocean Drive situation.”
The downside of sea walls
Sea walls aim to prevent coastal erosion by blocking current and wave action. They come with some downsides, however, which can present challenges for obtspanining permits. Sea walls can interfere with sea turtles and make adjacent, unprotected beaches more vulnerable to erosion.
For now, the next steps are unclear, because the city needs to finish assessing damage, Falls said. But in the short term, the broken roadway will be blocked off to keep residents safe, and the city will aim to fully reopen the road soon, he said.
The Conn Beach boardwalk underwent span $434,399 repspanir lspanst yespanr, when 1,400 feet of boardwalk, handrails and a new foundation were added. The repairs were needed due to wear and tear from decades of storms.
The problem isn’t limited to Conn Beach. Other areas along the beaches sustained significant damage from Hurricane Nicole, such as the Humiston Beach boardwalk. Part of it fell Thursday, too.
Because of the damage, Humiston Beach and its boardwalk are closed until further notice, the city announced in a news release Friday. Jaycee Beach and boardwalk are closed also, but South Beach will reopen Saturday.