DESTIN — Okaloosa County appears to be only a step or two away from an agreement for the much-needed dredging of Destin’s East Pass.

County Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to go along with a plan under which 105,000 cubic yards of sand will be spread along the coastline east of the Pass at Holiday Isle and at least the same amount placed on beaches on the west side.

The west side sand will benefit Okaloosa Island, and is being put there as a concession to the Condo Alliance of Okaloosa Island.

Alliance managers David Sherry, Rebecca Sherry and John Donovan put a stranglehold on the entire dredging project in December by challenging the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s issuing permits to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Alliance group contended an original plan to put the bulk of the dredged sand on the severely eroded east side of the Pass was unfair to Okaloosa Island residents. Their challenge effectively halted the Corps ability to move forward.

“An action under the Army Corps permit is stayed until resolution of the challenge,” paperwork briefing commissioners on the issue that came before them Tuesday said.

Deputy County Administrator Greg Kisela told commissioners before they voted that a compromise had been reached under which the Condo Alliance group agreed to drop their legal action if they got the sand they had demanded.

“I think everything is lined up here to the best of our ability at this point,” Kisela said, adding that he hoped to have all loose ends tied down within a week so that dredging could commence while the Corps of Engineers’ dredge was still available for the project.

“We’re really down to crunch time now,” he said.

Kisela said Wednesday that County Attorney Greg Stewart has been in contact with the Sherrys and Donovan and it is anticipated they will live up to their end of the negotiated bargain. He wasn’t prepared, though, to call the deal done.

“We’ve been close before to an agreement and the next thing you know there’s another wrinkle,” he said.

In response to an emailed inquiry, David Sherry said the Condo Alliance managers do intend to sign on to the agreement the commission voted to accept Tuesday, though Kisela confirmed Alliance challenges to not only the Corps, but also the city of Destin’s dredging permits will continue.

“To be exact, we're not dropping our challenges. We are carving a hole in the legal proceedings so this particular dredge event can take place, and then the proceedings will resume after this dredge event or July 1,” Sherry said. “The county commission's unanimous decision yesterday was the right one — it moves the process in the right direction and all parties receive a benefit.”

It is expected the dredging project will be finished well ahead of July 1.

By having the Corps of Engineers do the dredging, the county will be able to utilize a $1.5 million federal appropriation, Kisella said. Any funding required over that amount to complete the project will come from bed taxes generated by the county’s Tourist Development Department.

The money the Corps of Engineers will spend is about half of what the county would have spent in bed tax dollars if it had been forced to contract with the same company to do the work, Kisella said. That option had been contemplated after the Sherrys and Donovan filed their challenge.

Another aspect of the Tuesday agreement requires the county to replace the sand sent west via the East Pass dredging project and put it on Holiday Isle.

Kisela said he didn’t believe the Destin beaches could actually afford to wait three years before receiving new sand and he expects a beach renourishment project could be the county’s solution to replacing the Holiday Isle sand.

Tuesday’s agreement impacts not only the county, the Corps of Engineers and the Condo Alliance. Florida’s DEP and the city of Destin both had a stake in the negotiations as well.

While Destin is a party to the agreement, a vote of its city council will not be required to finalize it, according to Kisela.

"My understanding is we have a tentative, handshake deal with Destin," he said. "Their number one goal is getting the East Pass dredged."