DESTIN — Several Okaloosa Island property owners are kicking up sand over Okaloosa County’s plan to restore an eroded stretch of beach on Holiday Isle.
They say at least some of the sugar-white sand that would be dredged from the East Pass and adjacent ebb shoal for the project should be placed on the island’s beaches.
But county officials say the sand is going where it’s most needed.
The planned Holiday Isle beach restoration project might occur sometime after Labor Day, Greg Kisela, deputy county administrator of operations, said Friday. Besides building up the beach, the overall project is expected to help ease vessel navigation in the East Pass channel, which was last dredged in 2014.
County officials are working on two possible scenarios to add about 200,000 cubic yards of sand to the area of beach that extends about 4,000 feet eastward from the east jetty.
Kisela said the county could partner with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and utilize its dredging company or contract directly with a private dredge.
“Hopefully, within the next 30 to 45 days we’ll know more” on which project track to take, he said.
Several Okaloosa Island property owners, however, recently emailed the Daily News and county commissioners to express disapproval of putting all of the dredged sand on Holiday Isle beaches.
The closest public beach accesses to Holiday Isle beaches are the city of Destin’s Norriego Point beach access and Osteen beach access, both of which are off of Gulf Shore Drive and a long walk away from the Gulf.
“It seems like the publicly owned beaches on Okaloosa Island should receive a fair share of the “good quality EAST PASS sands,” perhaps more so than privately owned beaches,” island condo owner Larry Fass said via email Thursday. “If the (island) beaches lose their attraction to vacationing tourists because the beach is lost, or the sugar sand quality disappears, does that not negatively impact the entire region?”
Katrina Chilton, who along with her husband owns two condos on Okaloosa Island, said the couple supports using East Pass sand “for Okaloosa Island’s predominantly public beach. Holiday Isle private beach owners are fine with OK-A (borrow area) sand.”
And island condo owner Terry Stelly said island property owners "have been patiently waiting our beach restoration, while Destin and places east of us have had their beach restoration completed.”
Stelly was referring to the county’s 2013 project that restored about 6,200 linear feet of shoreline east of the East Pass.
According to county information, a monitoring report completed last year found that much of the sand placed in 2013 has eroded away, with the roughly 4,000-foot-long stretch of shoreline that the county is now looking to restore taking the hardest hit.
Kisela said the county’s science- and beach survey-backed Inlet Management Plan calls for sand to be placed where it’s needed the most.
“We’ve talked with the state about directing some of the sand going to the west (to Okaloosa Island), but the state says that unless there is science that dictates it, the sand goes to the beaches that need it the most, and those are the ones at Holiday Isle,” Kisela said. “I’m not saying (island property owners) don’t need sand, but most recent studies show it being needed to the east, not to the west. Over time, that sand will migrate predominantly to the west, just by natural forces.”
The intent of the Inlet Management Plan, he said, “was to remove the politics and let the science drive where the sand goes.”
District 2 Commissioner Carolyn Ketchel, whose district includes Okaloosa Island, shared similar thoughts.
“The Inlet Management Plan is the law, and we have to carry that out,” she said. “Okaloosa Island is not critically eroded."
Last month, the commission approved paying a coastal engineering firm to evaluate ways to stop or reduce the continuing erosion along the western Destin shoreline, specifically the area that extends 1.2 miles east of the East Jetty.