As people traveled across the Marler Bridge and into Destin this week, a geyser of water and sand shot skywards in Destin harbor as a boat dredged sand and drilled into the harbor floor.
The dredging and stabilization phase of the Norriego Point project is scheduled to continue until late May or early June.
"The rock structure at the north end is the terminating point of the project. Norriego Point will look like it did back in the 1990s before Hurricane Opal," said Florida Department of Environmental Protection project manager Pearce Barrett. "The project is moving along well."
Barrett said that dredging will begin moving north of the Marler Bridge in order to collect more sand, and if there isn’t enough sand there, the dredging will move south of the bridge.
In total, the stabilization project requires about 150,000 cubic yards of white sand.
John Michael, and engineer for the Luhr Bros. Inc., who is the primary contractor on the Norriego Point project, has been working at the site for weeks.
"They’ve been pumping the last few days, so it’s moving pretty quickly," said Michael.
Michael, who is originally from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, but lives in Kentucky, said that the job requires long hours.
"My wedding anniversary is coming up on April 2nd, and I’d really like to be able to spend it at home," Michael said.
For now, he surveys the project’s progress with coworker Demetric Lee, navigating around the perimeter of the construction zone in a small boat.
He steered the boat into the circle of surrounding rock walls, called "piles."
"All of this in here will be filled with sand for recreational purposes," Michael said, pointing to the area that is currently filled with water.
Curving around to the west side of Norriego Point, bulldozers work up on the dunes to move sand into place where the new shoreline will be.
According to Michael, the new shoreline on the west side will jut out about 15 more feet to widen the area for snorkeling, swimming, and just to have more room in general.
While surveying, Michael skirts around tourist boaters, charter boats, and jet skis.
The boat traffic has increased since the start of spring break, but according to Barrett, the Sheriff’s Office has helped patrol the waterways to ensure a safe distance remains between the construction and the boaters.
"The project is on budget, on time, and there’s been great cooperation with the contractors involved," Barrett said. "There haven’t been any incidents on the water due to the construction."
On Friday morning, the entrance of Destin harbor at the East Pass was closed at 8 a.m. so that workers could move a dredge pipe across the channel. It was scheduled to stay closed for about an hour.