While ‘not ideal,’ beach restoration is set for end of 2012

Matt Algarin
The West Destin beach restoration project is expected to being by the end of 2012.

The city of Destin is ready to move forward with the long-awaited West Destin beach restoration project after years of legal wrangling have delayed progress.

“We’ve been working on this for a while now,” City Manager Maryann Ustick told The Log Friday morning. “We are nationally and internationally known for our sugar white beaches, so we need to make sure that we maintain them and keep them pristine.”

Contractors have until Oct. 16 to submit their bids for the project, which will place an estimated 550,000 cubic yards of sand along a 1.7-mile stretch of the city’s western beaches, immediately to the east of East Pass.

The renourishment project will likely cost between $6-8 million, according to estimates from the city, and is funded mainly through the Okaloosa County Tourist Development Council via the Municipal Services Benefit Unit.

Since 2009, about 3,100 properties in Destin have been assessed through the MSBU to help cover the cost of beach restoration. Beachfront property owners bare the greatest burden, paying in $150 to $200 annually, while inland property owners are assessed about $55 a year.

In January, county officials washed their hands of the project that also included restoration efforts along a 2.9-mile stretch of Okaloosa Island after years of legal challenges. Island property owners were not pleased with the quality of the sand that would be used and the MSBU funding.

The county’s decision to axe the project opened the door for the city of Destin to go at the restoration project alone. Funding through the MSBU is still available for the project.

As part of the city’s agreement to take over the permitting for the restoration project, it ultimately had to come to a settlement agreement with property owners along Holiday Isle that did not want to participate in the project. Lindey Chabot, grants manager for the city, told The Log that the Oceania Condominium and a group of single-family homes would be excluded from the upcoming restoration.

Jim Trifilio, coastal management coordinator for the Okaloosa County Tourist Development Council, told The Log Monday morning that the excluded properties along Holiday Isle represented about a 2,900-foot gap in the middle of the project area.

As for the effect the gap would have on the overall project, he said it was “not ideal,” but it wouldn’t jeopardize the integrity of the final project either.

In the past, experts have said gaps could create “hotspots” that would quickly erode neighboring beaches.

But based on computer models in this case, Trifilio said “the life of the project was only impacted marginally,” noting about a 10 percent reduction in the lifespan of the restored beach.

With the bid deadline right around the corner, Ustick said the city is planning on awarding the project during a Special City Council meeting Oct. 22.

Work is expected to begin this year and must be completed by March 2013.

“We are very hopeful this is going to be done by the end of the year,” Ustick said. “That would be a great celebration.”