By Jane Smith and Dan Moffett
Three South County beaches will be restored this season with nearly 800,000 cubic yards of sand, costing $13.66 million.
Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co. of Oak Brook, Illinois, will dredge the sand offshore and then coat the southern coast of Delray Beach, from Casuarina Road to the city line with Highland Beach.
Boynton Beach’s Oceanfront Park beach, about 1,000 feet long, will receive extra sand.
The contractor also will restore about 3,000 feet north of Oceanfront Park and about 2,000 feet south of it. Both parcels sit in Ocean Ridge.
Heavy equipment will be stationed at Oceanfront Park, said Michael Stahl, deputy director of the county’s Department of Environmental Resources Management.
“The projects will restore sand lost during Hurricane Irma,” he said.
Initial assessments didn’t reveal that much sand was lost during the 2017 storm.
“It wasn’t until we did the studies that showed the substantial sand loss below the waterline,” Stahl explained.
The projects will be paid for with federal tax dollars, authorized by Congress in June under the Flood Control and Coastal Emergency Act. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will oversee the work.
The Delray Beach work is estimated to start in December and the Boynton Beach/Ocean Ridge project in February, according to David Ruderman, Army Corps spokesman.
In addition, Ruderman said the Army Corps office in Jacksonville awarded a separate $8.39 million contract to Great Lakes to restore the Jupiter area beaches in northern county. That work is scheduled to start by the end of 2019 and add 517,000 cubic yards of sand.
In South Palm Beach, the Town Council is hoping to partner with neighboring Palm Beach for a beach renourishment project early next year, paid for with federal tax dollars.
South Palm would purchase about $700,000 worth of sand from Palm Beach so the project can be extended five-eighths of a mile south. The town already has the money set aside.
But both municipalities are having the same problem getting the joint venture started: easements. Palm Beach needs 51 easements from property owners to reconstruct 2.8 miles of its beaches. As of October, only about 40 have agreed to grant access. The others are balking, saying they’re reluctant to open their private waterfront to public use.
South Palm Beach needs 16 easements and has 15 in hand, according to Mayor Bonnie Fischer. The holdout is one of the town’s few single-family homeowners.
Fischer said she remains optimistic that agreements can be reached with that homeowner and with those in Palm Beach.