By Jane Smith
Sand lost to 2017’s Hurricane Irma on the beaches of Ocean Ridge/Boynton Beach, south Delray Beach and north Boca Raton will be restored starting about Feb. 5.
The projects will be paid for using federal tax dollars authorized by Congress in June under the Flood Control and Coastal Emergencies Act. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will oversee the work.
The approximate cost for restoring the Ocean Ridge/Boynton Beach and Delray Beach sand is $13.7 million, according to the Army Corps. Those three beaches will receive nearly 800,000 cubic yards of sand, equal to the amount needed to fill about 250 Olympic-size swimming pools.
The work will be divided into two parts: Delray Beach and then Ocean Ridge/Boynton Beach. Each will take about 30 days to finish, working around the clock.
“Ocean Ridge will follow Delray. It should get going the first week of March and again wrap up in roughly 30 days or four weeks,” David Ruderman, Army Corps spokesman in the Jacksonville office, wrote in a Jan. 10 email to The Coastal Star. “These dates and timelines may slip forward or backward depending on the weather and mechanical/technical issues, but that is the plan.”
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.
In Boynton Beach, heavy equipment will be stationed at Oceanfront Park. That 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 belong to Ocean Ridge.
A second contractor, Weeks Marine Inc. of Covington, Louisiana, won the $12.8 million contract for the Boca Raton work. Staging will begin in mid-February with the project to be complete no later than April 30, Ruderman said.
The same Great Lakes dredge hired to restore sand in Jupiter will float down the coast to restore the Delray and Boynton/Ocean Ridge beaches. It can’t move in rough seas, said Tracy Logue, coastal geologist with the Palm Beach County Environmental Resources Management department.
Once sea turtle nesting season begins March 1, extra steps are required, Logue said. These include hourly nesting surveys, relocation of or the creation of safe zones for nests affected by construction, and limited lighting at night.
The last step is intended to avoid excessive illumination of the water’s surface while meeting federal standards for construction lighting at night.
“Weather and sea conditions have a lot to do with how fast the work can be done,” said Christine Perretta, whose D.B. Ecological Services monitors sea turtle nests in that Boynton Beach/Ocean Ridge area.
She expects to be called to a pre-construction meeting in mid-February to review the plan for dealing with sea turtle nests.
Leatherback turtles can nest in months outside the traditional nesting season of March 1 to Oct. 31, she said.
“They usually allow work on the beach in the early part of the nesting season. The peak begins May 15, then all work on the beach must cease,” Perretta said.
The monitoring will occur at night if there’s nesting activity, Perretta said. “Monitors will be allowed to move the eggs out of the construction area or create a safe area around the nest that the construction equipment won’t disturb.”