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Pinellas County courts new ally in beach erosion battle: the White House

Amid a stalemate with the Army Corps of Engineers over a policy delaying beach renourishment, local officials got a West Wing engagement.

Cookie Kennedy was out for a walk with a friend one day this winter when she felt a familiar dread creep up on her. As the pair strolled the north shore of Indian Rocks Beach, the small Pinellas County city where Kennedy is mayor, they were forced to weave their way through a thickening crowd of beachgoers. The land where they stood had shrunk.

Pinellas County’s beaches are washing away. For decades, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers replenished them, pumping tons of sand every few years onto an 8½-mile stretch of Sand Key, the barrier island home to some of the county’s beach communities.

Then a new Corps policy created a standoff with the county. A renourishment originally scheduled for 2024 won’t happen — not next year, anyway.

Kennedy knew all this, but standing on the beach, she was so disturbed she felt local leaders had to try something new. Months later, they’re on a path that may bring them the closest they’ve gotten yet to resolving the impasse. It goes through a building a Pinellas contingent visited earlier this month: the White House.