CRESTVIEW — Because of circumstances outside their control, Okaloosa County officials’ planned East Pass dredging/Holiday Isle beach restoration project might not occur until this fall instead of this spring.

The County Commission in February agreed to partner with the city of Destin to provide an estimated $2 million in bed tax money to pay for the project. It called for placing 100,000 to 130,000 cubic yards of sand dredged from East Pass on the severely-eroded section of Holiday Isle beach that extends about 4,000 feet eastward from the east jetty.

According to the county’s initial plan, the dredge that is already in East Pass for the Norriego Point stabilization project would be used to dredge sand to benefit vessel navigation and Holiday Isle.

The dredging of the federal navigation channel in the pass by Dyersburg, Tennessee-based Inland Dredging Co. for the point project could be completed in mid-April, according to information from Destin.

The county had planned for the company to stay about a month to dredge the channel.

But among other significant changes, Inland Dredging officials told the county March 29 that they would not dredge south of the jetties because of potentially hazardous working conditions.

Matt Trammell, the county’s consulting coastal engineer from Taylor Engineering, noted at Tuesday’s commission meeting that the freeboard — the height of a ship's side between the waterline and the deck — on Inland Dredging’s ship is only 8 to 10 inches.

In another blow to the county’s plans, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on March 30 said it was behind schedule and would not release Inland Dredging to perform the dredging needed for Holiday Isle,  County Attorney Greg Stewart said.

He said that as soon as Inland Dredging finishes the Norriego Point project, it will be directed to move to a Corps’ project site.

While holding on to the slim chance that the Corps might reverse course and allow the company to dredge the channel, commissioners agreed to have their staff begin an emergency, informal process to seek price quotes from other companies.

The county wants to get its project finished as soon as possible, but preferably not during the busy beach period between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

The commission agreed that if the county does not receive any satisfactory offers via the emergency procurement process, the staff would issue a formal request for proposals, which would give dredging companies more time to prepare for the project.

"Most likely, it’s going to be delayed to the fall," Greg Kisela, deputy county administrator of operations, said in an email Friday. "I don’t think we can put all of that sand (up to 130,000 cubic feet) during the hundred days of summer. Just imagine if you’ve spent all this money on a vacation and then you get kicked off the beach so they can put sand out there."

Besides facing a delay in the overall project, the county’s estimated $2 million price tag for the work likely will increase. That’s because, unlike being able to use the dredge that is still in the East Pass, the county would have to pay the mobilization cost for a different dredge.

"At this point, we don’t really have any good play here," Trammell told commissioners Tuesday.

He said the Corps often does not receive adequate funding from Congress to dredge the East Pass channel, which was last dredged in 2014.

"The East Pass is the first one cut off the list in the Corps of Engineers’ work plan on an annual basis," with federal ports in Pensacola, Panama City and Mobile, Alabama, taking priority, Trammell said.

During a tour of the pass with the U.S. Coast Guard on Wednesday, Congressman Matt Gaetz saw where there was only 8 feet of water in the center of the channel just outside of the jetties.

Gaetz pledged to try to get the Corps to immediately dredge the pass and work on a long-term plan for regular maintenance dredging.