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Seminole County Commissioner Lee Constantine visits Europe to study water issues

Seminole County Commissioner Lee Constantine stood on a beach in the Netherlands facing the North Sea last week and watched as people walked along the sand.

It was only three years ago that the beach near Amsterdam was under sea water because of unrelenting beach erosion. But thanks to a massive restoration effort, the beach is now an area where families relax, swim and fly kites.

Beach restoration was one of the topics covered at a seven-day water-management conference hosted by the European Union that Constantine attended last week in three European countries.

“We’re pouring sand onto our beaches and then losing them again,” he said. “But they’re doing things differently that will literally restore and maintain those beaches.”

He thought about Florida’s coastlines, where recent hurricanes have eroded much of Volusia and Brevard counties’ beaches. Hurricane Matthew in 2016, for example, washed out nearly 2 million cubic feet of sand in those two counties and took out a chunk of State Road A1A in Ormond-By-The-Sea.

Constantine was the only Florida representative among a dozen water policy experts from around the U.S. invited on the trip, funded by the EU. The group visited Brussels and Antwerp in Belgium, Rotterdam and Amsterdam in the Netherlands and Helsinki, Finland, to exchange ideas and study EU policies regarding flooding, wastewater management, potable water and renewable energy.