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DESTIN HISTORY: Where did the jetties come from?

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log
The Destin Log

For more than five decades, they have been fished off of, snorkeled around and even been the backdrop of countless photos, but the main purpose of the jetties is to keep East Pass open.

“They were built to make the pass more passable,” said Buddy Gentry, who grew up fishing in and out of Destin’s East Pass before and after the jetties were built.

According to a 1992 report by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, East Pass was first dredged in 1931 to remove sand and make it safer to navigate. The pass was dredged a total of 22 times between April 1931 and December 1967, when construction on the jetties started.

Construction lasted more than a year and was completed in January 1969, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers report.

The jetties were built to protect the mouth of East Pass.

According to the report, during the 1950s vessel traffic through East Pass ranged from 4,000 to 6,000 trips per year. And despite regular dredging, “East Pass was considered to be generally unsatisfactory for navigation. Shoaling was rapid, and channel depths reverted to 7 to 8 feet shortly after each dredging.”

So to “enhance navigation and reduce the annual maintenance,” a proposal to build jetties to protect the mouth of the pass was birthed in 1963.

So where did the huge rocks come from that make up the jetties?

“They were barged down from Kentucky,” according to Capt. Tommy Norred, who was fishing out of Destin at the time. “They came in on these big barges.”

A total of 61,000 tons of cover stone and core stone and 24,200 tons of blanket material was placed, according to the Morang report. And the price tag for total cost of construction,engineering and design, and supervision and administration was $980,000, equal to about $7.5 million today.

Have the jetties served their purpose?

"It made (traversing in and out of the the pass) more doable,“ said retired charter boat Capt. Kelly Windes. “It’s not perfect but there were times that you absolutely could not come and go before the jetties.”

The jetties have “definitely made it safer,” Windes said, who fished for more than four decades out of Destin.

However, Windes did say there are days “you still can’t come and go, because of lack of dredging because it’s too shallow.”

“It was suppose to give us a deep channel,” Gentry said. “But I don’t remember it making a big difference for us.

“The jetties were suppose to be a do all cure all ... which it wasn’t. I remember it being sloppy,” he added, referring to the waves at the pass.

Although the jetties have not solved all the problems of the ebb and flow of the sand and water, they have stabilized the entrance to the Gulf of Mexico for the thousands upon thousands of anglers who come to fish out of Destin each year.