By Cheryl Blackerby
In a surprise move by the contractor, dredging on the north Boca Raton beach has stopped midway through the project, and won’t restart until November.
Bad weather caused Boca Raton to miss the April 30 deadline for finishing the dredging project on the north beach.
Up against the time limit, the city scrambled to apply for 15-day-extension permits needed from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Just when Jennifer Bistyga, city coastal program manager, had permit confirmations from the two agencies on April 28, the dredging contractor pulled out with only 55 to 60 percent of the beach work done.
Even with the extension, there wasn’t enough time to finish the job and the dredge contractor had another job to go to, Bistyga said. “The contractor left on Saturday (April 26) morning,” The dredging contractor, Marinex Construction in North Charleston, S.C., won’t be back on the beach until early November, she said.
The permits will come in handy to make the beach ready for turtle nesting season, which has already begun, she said.
“We need to take all the pipes off the beach and we need to comb the beach for turtle nesting,” she said.
Combing means tilling the sand to fluff it up and make it easier for turtles to dig holes for nests. “Often the sand is very compact and hard for the turtle to lay the eggs,” Bistyga said.
Even though the beach project is only half-finished, there’s enough sand to give protection for summer storms, she said.
“The northern section has enough material to provide some protection for hurricane season. And we had sand return after we lost it to Sandy,” she said.
The north beach of Boca Raton is the fourth and final project in a series of dredging projects that include Delray Beach, Ocean Ridge and south beach in Boca Raton. The back-to-back projects that used the same dredging company were plagued by high winds and rough seas in the fall and spring.
The Ocean Ridge project also has had problems including escarpments as high as 5 to 9 feet, carved out by waves and wind. On April 23, the county started leveling the scarps, or cliffs. The escarpments made it difficult, if not impossible, for turtles to nest.
“The contractor finished April 23 and the turtle monitor and I checked the beach this morning. All is good,” said Tracy Logan, coastal geologist for Palm Beach County Environmental Resources Management.
Turtle monitors found two turtle nests on the beach, which were marked so bulldozers could work around them.
County sea turtle experts will make the decisions on whether to relocate any newly deposited nests near an escarpment, she said.
“The turtle nests were north of the bulldozer work, north of Ocean Hammock Park. They were leatherback turtles, early nesters,” Logan said.
The escarpments were, to some degree, expected, she said.
“Renourished beaches characteristically scarp after construction as the new beach profile equilibrates,” she said. “The sand pumped onto the beach has not yet been sorted by wind and waves. Even some of the native beaches have been scarping in response to the sea conditions we have had this spring.”
Boca’s north beach project, as well as the beach projects in Ocean Ridge and Delray Beach, are U.S. Army Corps of Engineers beach renourishment projects. The fourth project was south Boca Raton beach, which is not an Army Corps project, but the city used the same contractor to save money.