By Margie Plunkett
Construction on a new sand transfer plant at South Lake Worth Inlet — also known as the Boynton Inlet — will begin in April. Work won’t interfere with boaters or beachgoers, but could at times displace people fishing on the jetties and limit parking in the north lot.
The sand transfer plant, jetties and the seawall around Bird Island are being reconstructed in a $7 million project that’s expected to last through November and beyond. The plan to renovate the nation’s first sand transfer plant, which redistributes sand that shifts because of the inlet, has been in the works since about 2002. The plant was last replaced 42 years ago.
“It’s been so long in the making — it’s long overdue,” Ocean Ridge Mayor Ken Kaleel said, adding he didn’t expect the construction would have any impact on residents. “I’m not concerned about it.”
Neighbors may hear pounding once a week for up to an hour on weekdays as workers start driving pilings for the plant beginning April 1, when the north jetty will be closed, said Leanne Welch of the Palm Beach County Department of Environmental Resources Management. Weekend construction will be limited to quiet work, such as painting and sanding. Manalapan Mayor Tom Gerrard raised concerns about pile driving over such a long time, and also pointed out that Manalapan doesn’t allow work on Sunday. The county “reassured me the Sunday work would be quiet work. For the sake of the residents near that end, I hope it is,” he said. Gerrard will intercede on behalf of residents if need be, he added.
While people won’t be allowed on the jetty during construction, both jetties aren’t expected to be closed at the same time. And both sides of Ocean Inlet Park will be open for fishing for the duration.
Steel sheet piles will also be driven for the north jetty. New rock will be put in and new decking and handrails will be installed. The sand transfer plant will be demolished and replaced between June 1 and Sept. 30. And work will begin on the south jetty in November.
Contractors will use the north side of Ocean Inlet Park for equipment, leaving very little parking, if any. Most parking will be limited to the south lot.
The project will rebuild a system that’s part of the endless battle with erosion and shifting sand since the inlet was cut in 1927. Jetties were first built in 1936 to preserve the beaches and the sand plant was constructed in 1937. The plant pumps sand that stacks up on the north side of the inlet to the beaches on the south side that have been eroded. “It’s a healthier eco-system overall,” said Welch.
The need for a plan and a pump
The county went out to bid for the sand transfer plant alone in 2007, but bids came in about $2 million higher than budgeted, Welch said. The county went back to the drawing board, redesigning the sand transfer plant to make it more efficient and combining the plant, jetties and seawall into one project.
While the design of the new plant is similar to the old one, its oval shape has become an elongated octagon to better withstand hurricanes, Welch told Manalapan commissioners at their March 24 meeting. The plant, in which a diesel-powered pump will be replaced with an electric motor, will become more efficient and reliable; it won’t break down as often, Welch said. “It’s not very efficient now, and it will be much quieter.”
Manalapan, Ocean Ridge, the county and the state had earlier developed an inlet management plan, which was supposed to have established a system of monitoring the sand transfer plant, Zoning Commissioner Kent Shortz told the Manalapan meeting. “I’m concerned about the amount of sand to be pumped by this station,” he said.
The sand transfer plant must move about 60,000 cubic yards of sand a year, according to the South Lake Worth Inlet Management Plan of September 1998. Shortz agreed, at Gerrard’s request, to meet with Town Manager Gregory Dunham and the county to assure compliance with the inlet management plan.
The county won’t know the new plant’s capacity until it’s operational. “We’ll do beach profiles before running it, then after” to determine how much sand it’ll pump, Welch explained.
Lucas Marine Construction LLC of Stuart will do the latest renovations, including work on the crumbling sea wall on Bird Island. During the first nine months of 2010, Lucas will build a new sea wall on the south side of Bird Island, which will involve the construction of a temporary bridge to the island. When seas are too rough to work on the jetties, the crews can work on the sea wall, according to the county.
The county will update progress on the project on its Web site and will point a webcam at the work. The webcam is at www.pbcgov.org/erm