Norriego Point will gain from Coast Guard dredging

Mladen Rudman
A boat rounds Norriego Point as it pulls into Destin Harbor. A dredging project in the future may fill in the watery void between the point and rocky T-groins.

A proposed dredging project northwest of Marler Bridge would help the city with its ongoing effort to keep Norriego Point from becoming part of the seafloor.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, acting as project manager for the U.S. Coast Guard, has asked the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for permission to dredge the channel leading to Station Destin. Also dredged would be the station’s basin. The channel and basin are getting shallower because, among other factors, sand from Crab Island washes toward the station.

Army Corps spokeswoman Lorraine Evans said it generally takes 30 to 60 days for a permit to get the nod, but the dredging project has no projected start date. If approved, the permit would allow some of the dredged spoil to be used as fill for Norriego Point’s eroded tip.

“We’re thrilled,” said Destin Public Services Director Steve Schmidt, about the prospect of using the Coast Guard project to reinforce the point, which was further battered after Hurricane Isaac brushed by the coast in late August.

He believed some of the dredged sand would be used to fill the gap between the point and one of its T-groins. Schmidt said that water flowing behind the groin is contributing to erosion.

Charter fishing Capt. Jim Westbrook, who owns party boats New Florida Girl and American Spirit, has no doubt that the structures installed to protect Norriego Point are causing sand to accrete at the mouth of the harbor.

He hoped there could be a way to take advantage of the Coast Guard project to dredge the harbor’s entrance.

“It is 100 percent needed,” he said. “It has been needed in excess of a year. … I think that a 2-for-1 would be in order.”

According to Westbrook, vessels with a draft of 5 feet or more are at risk of grounding unless they stay close to the northern side of the harbor entrance. He added that two large vessels can’t use the channel at the same time.

Schmidt said that the city has a long-term plan for stabilizing Norriego Point, which should also help the entrance. It has initiated the permitting process for the project, but patience will be needed.

“This is a major, major undertaking,” said the public services director. “It can be a lengthy project.”