LETTER: Research supports dredging, restoring eroded beaches

Maurice Shackleford
Crews from Great Lakes Dredge and Docks have been busy positioning their pipes and barges ahead of the long-awaited West Destin Beach Restoration project, which is expected to begin this week.

There seems to be some confusion as to the direction of sand transport in the East Pass Inlet and where the coastal downdrift material ends up. This has been a problem over the years because it affects the sediment budget and therefore the Inlet Management Plan.

The Destin harbor entrance is in serious need of maintenance dredging at this time and this will require funding. Our local fishing fleet, tour boats, as well as our boating visitors must be able to move freely though the harbor entrance. Keeping the harbor functional is very important to the wellbeing of our economy.

The materials that are building up in the harbor entrance originate in the Appalachian Mountains and are transported down the river systems into the Choctawhatchee Bay and from there through the East Pass Inlet into the Gulf forming a delta. Due to the very dominant outgoing tide, materials from the Gulf do not inter the Inlet.

There is a daily supply of sand that moves through the inlet and a percentage contributes to shoaling, which must be cleared in order to keep our boating industry functional. 

Studies conclude that the downdrift beaches are receiving sand transported naturally along the beaches plus materials that pass through the inlet daily as well as all materials that are maintenance dredged inside the inlet. 

As long as there is a bay and river system to the north, maintenance dredging will always be required. There is no additional cost to the taxpayer.  It does not make any difference where the sand is placed; east or west of the jetties or on Norriego Point; the materials enter the east-to-west or west-to-east littoral drift and do not return to the inlet.

Sand must be placed on beaches of most need in order to keep the system balanced. It does not matter whether the beaches are private or public. The Department of Environmental Protection as well as the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers recognizes the importance of balance. Eroded beaches are referred to as “hot spots” and must be nourished to maintain balance.

Hopefully our elected officials will carefully research available data and base their decisions for requested funding on factual information.

Maurice Shackelford has been a resident of Destin since 1966.