New project uses fences to capture sand to widen, restore Okaloosa beaches

Tony Judnich
Northwest Florida Daily News

Later this year, Okaloosa County officials expect to find out the results of a beach enrichment project that recently began at public, county-owned beaches in Destin and on Okaloosa Island.

The project uses temporary “groyne systems” that capture sand suspended in the water as it moves down the shore, county Coastal Resource Manager Alex Fogg said Friday in an email.

People walk amid the beach erosion mitigation fencing at James Lee Beach in Destin. The installation stretches 1,500 feet across the beach and 150 feet from the beach into the Gulf of Mexico.

“This will result in sand accumulation that will widen the beach and extend the shoreline seaward,” Fogg said. “In addition to renourishing the beaches, this project will increase coastal resiliency to storms and other erosive events.”

More:Volunteer divers clean debris from Okaloosa Island Fishing pier

Last month, one groyne system was placed on the beach at James Lee Park in Destin and another was installed on Okaloosa Island. The one on the island runs from just east of county beach access No. 3 to just east of county beach access No. 4 adjacent to Santa Rosa Boulevard.

A crew from H&A Marine Construction prepares to raise the netting on a panel of the beach erosion mitigation fencing project at James Lee Beach in Destin. The installation stretches 1,500 feet across the beach and150 feet from the beach into the Gulf of Mexico.

Each groyne system covers 1,500 feet of beach. Both systems were provided by NuShore LLC of Tallahassee, and will be removed prior to the busy spring break season and sea turtle nesting season, Fogg said.

According to information from NuShore, the porous groynes consist of a semi-rigid webbing that is arranged in 10-foot-long panels extending perpendicular to the shoreline. Each groyne is spaced every 100 feet along the beach and extends about 150 feet seaward from the mean high waterline.

Beach erosion mitigation fencing is in place at James Lee Beach in Destin. A similar system has also been installed on Okaloosa Island.

The groyne systems are an alternative and less expensive alternative to dredging offshore sand to renourish the beach, according to NuShore.

County Tourist Development Department Director Jennifer Adams has noted that Hurricane Sally significantly impacted the beaches in September 2020. Outside of large storms, the beaches have experienced steady erosion and net beach loss in many locations, according to Adams.

Pulleys are used to raise the netting on beach erosion mitigating fences at James Lee Beach in Destin. Similar fences have been installed on Okaloosa Island.

Earlier:Volunteers to build dune fencing to protect condos and wildlife on Okaloosa Island. Want to help?

Fogg said county officials will share the results of the beach enrichment project and announce future installations if it is deemed a success.  

County bed tax money is being used to pay for the project, which includes construction of the groyne systems, sand surveys and project analysis.

“The total contract amount is $972,688.20, although that will likely be less once everything is complete, as things were delayed a bit due to supply chain issues,” Fogg said.