CRESTVIEW — While Okaloosa County’s $3.5 million East Pass dredging/beach restoration project still might begin in early March, it will involve less beach sand than what was originally projected.
Last November, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers survey determined that about 240,000 cubic yards of sand could be dredged from the East Pass. Plans call for the sand to be placed on the Air Force-owned beach next to the west jetty on Okaloosa Island and on two portions of Holiday Isle beach east of the east jetty.
But a survey performed in late January by another surveyor found that only 210,000 cubic yards of sand will be dredged.
“Sand moves,” Deputy County Administrator of Operations Greg Kisela said Friday about the reason for the decrease.
The County Commission will receive updates on the overall dredging/beach restoration project on Tuesday.
Besides learning of the smaller amount of dredged sand, county officials recently learned that the two portions of beach on Holiday Isle need 190,000 cubic yards of sand instead of the previous estimate of 160,000 cubic yards.
Overall, “There is less sand to go around and we need more sand,” Kisela said.
He and other officials were working Friday on a new way to distribute the smaller amount of dredged sand.
One possibility is placing 80,000 cubic yards of sand on the beach next to the west jetty and putting the remaining 130,000 cubic yards of sand on the “reach 1” area by the east jetty and on the “reach 2” area farther east on Holiday Isle.
“We thought reach 1 would need 130,000 cubic yards, but it actually needs 160,000 cubic yards,” Kisela said. “Reach 2 needs 30,000 cubic yards. We could put 100,000 cubic yards on reach 1 and 30,000 on reach 2. That’s assuming we can reach reach 2.”
To do so will require property owners’ permission to lay beach re-nourishment pipes across the “gap” between the two reach areas.
The reach 2 portion of the project remains up in the air as Destin officials continue working on obtaining easements from the owners, Kisela said.
If this portion of the project fizzles out, the 210,000 total cubic yards of sand to be dredged would be split between the beach by the west jetty and the reach 1 area next to the east jetty, he said.
The 80,000 cubic yards of sand that’s planned to be placed by the west jetty is part of an earlier “handshake agreement” between the county and three Condo Alliance of Okaloosa Island officers. The officers have fought to ensure that not all of the dredged sand goes to Holiday Isle.
Condo Alliance officers David and Rebecca Sherry and John Donovan earlier claimed that the Inlet Management Plan that determines where dredged sand is placed unfairly restricts areas west of Destin, such as Okaloosa Island.
“We’re trying to satisfy them and the Inlet Management Plan and the state of Florida,” Kisela said.
In the end, the county still might have to find 60,000 cubic yards of sand to make up for the current shortage of sand for reach 1.
“We’ll (provide) the sand that we didn’t do in this project within the next three years,” Kisela said.
For the upcoming project, the county plans to partner with the Corps of Engineers and its contractor, Westlake, Louisiana-based Mike Hooks LLC, which would perform the dredging and beach restoration work.
The overall project could be finished around mid-April. The project funding consists of $1.5 million in federal funding and $2 million in county bed tax money.