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Destin and other Okaloosa beaches to undergo post-Hurricane Sally review

Tony Judnich
Northwest Florida Daily News

Full assessments of area beaches and dunes, including the millions of dollars worth of sand that bulked up Holiday Isle beaches in Destin earlier this year, will not be made until Hurricane Sally passes and her storm surge backs away, local officials say.

At 11 a.m. Wednesday, the center of the storm was near the Alabama/Florida line and moving north/northeast at 5 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. The crawling Sally could end up being remembered most for the storm surge and flood-producing heavy rain she produced, with some areas receiving well over a foot of precipitation.

“We definitely have beach erosion taking place in the entire county, not just Destin,” Destin Mayor Gary Jarvis said. “Coastal flooding is the major issue in the city’s bays and neighborhoods due to the copious amounts of rain. There’s nowhere for the water to go.”

Curious beachgoers walk along the shore of Okaloosa Island on Tuesday as waves from Hurricane Sally pound the beach.

He said Destin Public Works employees were pumping floodwater from various neighborhoods.

One of the beaches in Destin that will be checked following the storm is the city-owned Shores at Crystal Beach Park at 2966 Scenic Highway 98.

Earlier this month, the Destin City Council approved paying $3.4 million to the nonprofit Trust for Public Land to buy the parcel that contains the Crystal Port Townhomes immediately west of the park. The closing of that transaction, which would mark the first land purchase in the city’s initiative to provide more public beach property, could occur on Oct. 30.

More:Destin moves closer to owning more public beach, approves Crystal Beach property purchase

Post-storm, Okaloosa County officials plan to fully assess county beaches on Okaloosa Island. They also plan to join Destin officials in finding out how the beaches along Holiday Isle held up.

An SUV passes a stalled vehicle in the intersection of U.S. Highway 98 and Santa Rosa Boulevard on Okaloosa Island on Wednesday morning as wind and rain from Hurricane Sally pounded the Emerald Coast.

This past spring, the county helped oversee the completion of an almost $3.5 million project to dredge more than 250,000 cubic yards of and from East Pass and place it across almost a half-mile of severely eroded, mostly private beach land on Holiday Isle.

County officials used $2 million in county bed tax money for the project, with the remaining cost covered by federal funding. Local officials have often said it’s important to keep the beaches on Holiday Isle in good shape because the properties there generate large portions of bed tax and property tax revenue.

More:East Pass dredging is a ‘win, win’

“A storm like this can move a lot of sand very quickly,” Deputy County Administrator of Operations Craig Coffey said Wednesday. “We’ll have assessment teams out as early as tomorrow morning or afternoon. It depends on how quickly the water recedes.”

He said the county staff probably will fly a drone over the beach restoration area to help assess eroded areas. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which partnered with the county on the dredging and beach restoration work, also will examine Holiday Isle, Coffey said.

A full assessment of beaches in Walton County also will not be made until surging water recedes enough, county spokesman Louis Svehla said.

“Our code enforcement director says you still can’t tell what the erosion will or will not look like because the water is still all the way up to the dunes,” Svehla said.