Different management techniques have improved beaches in southwest Escambia County, Commissioner Doug Underhill said.

By John Mullen

September 17, 2019 – Perdido Key, FL – (OBA®) – Escambia County, Florida, Commissioner Doug Underhill says the beaches in his district in Perdido have been removed from the endangered list by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

“We’ve been following some of these new best business practices for the last five years and the state has deemed based on the size of the beach, the growth of the beach that it is working and we are no longer considered one of the endangered beaches in the state of Florida,” Underhill said.

He said the county has been using different techniques beyond traditional renourishment programs that he believes are more effective as well.

“When we screw around with nature and we try to think that we know better that’s when we usually make mistakes,” Underhill said. “A lot of our beach erosion can actually be prevented by actually managing feeder beaches where the sand can continually migrate down the beach.”

He said the implementation of different management techniques during the past few years has paid off on beaches in Perdido Key.

“The state of Florida constantly monitors our beaches and we’ve done quite a bit of dune restoration, lot of focus on maintaining the sea oats,” Underhill said. “And, of course, the sea oats create the dunes. We have a very robust habitat conservation plan over here. Because of that, we’re actually starting to see the island actually mend itself. It’s kind of cool to watch.”

Damage from Ivan in 2004 marked the starting point of a beach management plan that resulted in the removal of Perdido Key beaches from the endangered list, Underhill said. One of those methods was monitoring how the sand migrates and trying to prevent obstacles to that migration.

“If you actually look at the construction methods on the beach and the beachfront towers prevent the north winds from being able to push sands back out onto the beach,” Underhill said. “There’s two elements to the way that our sand migrates. There’s the east-west migration from the water but the north to south and then back south to north is something happens because of the wind. When you build a wall of condo towers you prevent the sand from being able to migrate back onto the beach from the interior dunes.”

He hopes changing what is being built – meaning less high-rise condos – will help with the wind part of the dynamic.

“We’ve seen that that’s happening and we’ve changed the Perdido Key master plan,” Underhill said. “You’re not able to build a wall of towers like you could in the past. That will enable that north-south migration of the sand back onto the beach during those winter north winds.”

Underhill is the commissioner for District 2 in Escambia which is the southwest portion of the county and includes all the waterfront from downtown Pensacola to the Flora-Bama.