The Legislature recognizes the need for maintaining navigation inlets to promote commercial and recreational uses of our coastal waters and their resources. The Legislature further recognizes that inlets interrupt or alter the natural drift of beach-quality sand resources, which often results in these sand resources being deposited in nearshore areas or in the inlet channel, or in the inland waterway adjacent to the inlet, instead of providing natural nourishment to the adjacent eroding beaches. Accordingly, the Legislature finds it is in the public interest to replicate the natural drift of sand which is interrupted or altered by inlets to be replaced and for each level of government to undertake all reasonable efforts to maximize inlet sand bypassing to ensure that beach-quality sand is placed on adjacent eroding beaches. Such activities cannot make up for the historical sand deficits caused by inlets but shall be designed to balance the sediment budget of the inlet and adjacent beaches and extend the life of proximate beach-restoration projects so that periodic nourishment is needed less frequently. Therefore, in furtherance of this declaration of public policy and the Legislature’s intent to redirect and recommit the state’s comprehensive beach management efforts to address the beach erosion caused by inlets, the department shall ensure that:
(1) All construction and maintenance dredgings of beach-quality sand are placed on the adjacent eroding beaches unless, if placed elsewhere, an equivalent quality and quantity of sand from an alternate location is placed on the adjacent eroding beaches.
(2) On an average annual basis, a quantity of beach-quality sand is placed on the adjacent eroding beaches which is equal to the natural net annual longshore sediment transport. The department shall, with the assistance of university-based or other contractual resources that it may employ or call upon, maintain a current estimate of such quantities of sand for purposes of prioritizing, planning, and permitting.
(3) Construction waterward of the coastal construction control line on downdrift coastal areas, on islands substantially created by the deposit of spoil, located within 1 mile of the centerline of navigation channels or inlets, providing access to ports listed in s. 403.021(9)(b), which suffers or has suffered erosion caused by such navigation channel maintenance or construction shall be exempt from the permitting requirements and prohibitions of s. 161.053(4) or (5); however, such construction shall comply with the applicable Florida Building Code adopted pursuant to s. 553.73. The timing and sequence of any construction activities associated with inlet management projects shall provide protection to nesting sea turtles and their hatchlings and habitats, to nesting shorebirds, and to native salt-resistant vegetation and endangered plant communities. Beach-quality sand placed on the beach as part of an inlet management project must be suitable for marine turtle nesting. (4) The provisions of subsections (1) and (2) shall not be a requirement imposed upon ports listed in s. 403.021(9)(b); however, such ports must demonstrate reasonable effort to place beach-quality sand from construction and maintenance dredging and port-development projects on adjacent eroding beaches in accordance with port master plans approved by the Department of Community Affairs, and permits approved and issued by the department, to ensure compliance with this section. Ports may sponsor or cosponsor inlet management projects that are fully eligible for state cost sharing.
(5) The department shall ensure that any disposal of the beach-quality sand from federal projects in this state which involve dredging for the purpose of navigation is on, or in the nearshore area of, adjacent eroding beaches. The department may consider permitting nearshore or upland disposal of such beach-quality sand if emergency conditions exist. The state recognizes that due to the growing demand for beach-quality sand resources for beach restoration and nourishment projects, the limited supply of such sand resources, and the cost of such projects, beach or nearshore sand placement is the least-cost disposal method.
(6) If federal investigations and reports or state-approved inlet management plans do not specify the entity or entities responsible for the extent of erosion caused by an inlet, the department or local government, with the assistance of university-based or other contractual resources that they may employ or call upon, is encouraged to undertake assessments that aid in specifying the responsible entity or entities and in more accurately determining cost-sharing responsibilities for measures to correct such erosion. The entity that is responsible for maintenance dredging of an inlet may be deemed responsible for the erosion caused by the inlet if another responsible party is not specified in such an assessment, a shore protection project investigation or report, or a state-approved inlet management plan.
(7) If the beneficiaries of the inlet, the local governments having jurisdiction of lands adjacent to the inlet, or the owners of property adjacent to the inlet are involved in a dispute concerning how much sand should be bypassed, the department shall protect its monetary investment in beach nourishment projects within the inlet’s physical zone of influence by taking all reasonable actions to balance the sediment budget of the inlet and adjacent beaches, including implementation of inlet sand bypassing and other inlet management projects.