By Joe Capozzi
In what town officials call “a huge win,’’ Briny Breezes has received a $330,000 state grant to help pay for an ambitious flood and sea level rise protection plan.
The plan is one of 98 projects statewide awarding nearly $20 million through the Resilient Florida Program, including five others in Palm Beach County.
Delray Beach received $100,000 for a citywide vulnerability assessment and adaptation plan. Palm Beach County received $500,000 for vulnerability assessments in unincorporated areas, but for now the assessment will not include the pocket immediately south of Briny Breezes behind Nomad Surf Shop, or any other areas in the Coastal Resilience Partnership of Southeast Palm Beach County, a county official said.
For other local vulnerability studies, $192,475 went to West Palm Beach, $105,000 to Palm Beach and $28,500 to Palm Beach Shores.
For Briny Breezes, where the property tax rate is already at the maximum allowed under state law, the grant will help pay for the plans and studies needed to prepare construction-ready documents for enhanced sea walls, an improved stormwater drainage system and other 50-year adaptation measures.
“It is a huge win for Briny Breezes,’’ Michael Gallacher, president of Briny Breezes Inc., told residents in a newsletter.
The grant money will function as a reimbursement, so the town will have to spend money on the projects first and then use the grant to recoup those costs, Town Manager William Thrasher said.
Combined with $145,000 from the town and corporation, the grant money will help Briny Breezes complete a sustainability study, using state-mandated modeling, and a stormwater master plan. A townwide survey of underground utilities has already been completed.
The corporation paid $30,000 to the engineering firm Brizaga for a 144-page flooding adaptation plan, completed in April 2021, to get a head start on its strategies.
“This grant will get us to the next step. It is basically the final step before actually looking at sending out bids. It will give us a picture of how much it might cost,’’ Thrasher said.
“It’s a multifaceted project that’s going to take multiple years to develop. We are fortunate to receive the grant. That also indicates that others believe that we need to be doing similar work,’’ he said.
Though construction costs will be in the millions, Thrasher said he’s optimistic the town will receive assistance from federal and state grants.
“I believe in the project,’’ he said. “I believe it’s necessary and I believe there will be additional funds granted to the town of Briny Breezes for the re-establishment of its sea
However, in order to be eligible for future assistance, Thrasher told the Town Council at its May 26 meeting that it would be good to create and begin putting money into a reserve fund specifically for the project expenses. Those dollars could be used to meet any matching grant requirements.
Mayor Gene Adams agreed with the concept.
“I do think it’s important for us to start to set aside money because everyone I’ve spoken with talks about cost sharing on it,” Adams said.
The town needs to discuss how it might build reserves — money that’s not there now — to qualify for the much larger grants needed to pay for future work, Thrasher said.
If the grants don’t come through, a future council could designate those reserves for other purposes, he said.
Larry Barszewski contributed to this story.