By Cheryl Blackerby
Officials in Boca Raton and Delray Beach were surprised and elated when they were notified by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in early May that they will receive long-awaited restoration money for beaches damaged by Hurricane Sandy.
Boca Raton will get $4.5 million, which will be used to restore 1.45 miles of the north beach.
And Delray Beach will receive slightly less than that — $4.46 million — to renourish beaches north and south of the areas not covered by the recent offshore dredging project.
“We weren’t expecting it,” said Jennifer Bistyga, engineer with the city of Boca Raton. “We did everything they asked. There was a chance we would get it, but it was a shock when we made the cut.”
Even though the city staff had little hope of getting the money, particularly in the wake of Sandy’s devastation in the Northeast, they spent a lot of time trying, she said. “We did a lot of work to get to that point with surveys and comparisons. We worked very hard.”
Officials in Delray Beach also never lost hope even after watching news coverage of the catastrophic damage to the Jersey Shore.
“We asked to be considered, but it was a surprise,” said Paul Dorling, director of planning and zoning for Delray Beach. “We needed the money to do the project, and we were hopeful. We didn’t know how much it was.”
The two cities’ beach projects were among 16 around the state that the Corps considered for emergency assistance in response to Hurricane Sandy and Tropical Storm Debby. After the Corps’ damage reports were completed, 12 projects were approved to receive the emergency funds, including three in Palm Beach County — Boca Raton, Delray Beach and Jupiter/Carlin Park.
Delray Beach will use the money to bring in additional sand on beaches from Atlantic Avenue north to George Bush Boulevard, and more sand south of Atlantic.
“This is a larger project that will repair storm damage from Sandy with additional sand north of where we stopped the last project,” said Dorling. That damage had galvanized residents to ask the city to expand the spring dredging project to include those beaches.
The clock is ticking on this money, although no one knows the exact deadline, which is available only for a short period of time. Work is expected to start Nov. 1, but no one knows yet which of the three projects will go first.
“We’re working on permits with the Army Corps and the DEP (Florida Department of Environmental Protection). All the agencies know this money is only for a limited time, and we have been told we have to spend it quickly,” Bistyga said. “The Army Corps is putting the projects out to bid.”
The three beach projects will share the same offshore dredge to save money. “Mobilization of the dredge is $3 million, so we save across the board by working together,” she said.
Delray, too, is pleased with the amount of money it is getting and the tight deadline for getting the job done.
“Barring any crazy kind of bidding quotes that come in, it’s enough money to do the job,” Dorling said. “The Corps is preceding with permits in a small time frame, and is pushing like crazy. We would not be able to meet the time frame without them.”
In Boca Raton, some sand has returned to the beaches but not enough.
“The beaches are recovering, but the problem with this storm is that we lost a lot of height, and that’s not coming back to the level we would like. The beaches are a lot smaller and won’t regain that height,” said Bistyga.
The dredge will extract sand 2,500 feet offshore from Boca Raton adjacent to sites in the same area that was dredged in 2010. None of the federal money can be used for projects already completed, such as the recent dune restoration in Boca Raton. The Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District has been asked pay $200,000 for the dune project, which will also include planting sea oats and other vegetation on the dunes.
The beach projects damaged by Hurricane Sandy that will receive emergency funds: Brevard County — North Reach and South Reach; Martin County; Fort Pierce Beach; Palm Beach County — North Boca Raton, Jupiter/Carlin and Delray Beach; and Broward County, Segment 2.
The beach projects affected by Tropical Storm Debby that are getting emergency funds are Treasure Island in Pinellas County; Anna Maria Island in Manatee County; and Gasparilla and Captiva in Lee County.
By Cheryl Blackerby