Delray Beach: Beach restoration on track despite storm’s effects

By Cheryl Blackerby
Despite extensive damage from Hurricane Sandy, Delray Beach’s beach restoration project, part of a routine 10-year renourishment plan, is still on track for February.
    The cost will be only a little more than the projected $9.2 million because of Sandy’s damage to the 1.9-mile stretch along the Municipal Beach, says Dan Bates, deputy director of Palm Beach County Environmental Resource Management.
    The city has received reimbursement funding authorization of more than $4.02 million from Palm Beach County and the state Department of Environmental Protection to complete the project.  The remaining $5.2 million will be paid by the city of Delray Beach.
    More money may come from Washington. “It’s going to be up to Congress,” Bates  said. “Obviously there are some very heavy losses on the East Coast.”
    But the Army Corps of Engineers inspected Delray Beach’s beach after Sandy and agreed with the county’s assessment of the damage. “We estimated around $1 million in damage and the Army Corps of Engineers agreed with our assessment,” he said.
    Representatives from FEMA, who toured the beach after Sandy, also agreed with the assessment.
    “FEMA took that information back to Washington. We hope to get an emergency declaration from the president. After that we can qualify for FEMA funding for the coastline,” Bates said.
    Countywide damage from Sandy totaled about $24 million, he said. “Funding for that loss may come from a separate appropriations bill from Congress. It’s still unknown whether we would be included along with the Northeast. We are at least on the list. That’s a step in the right direction,” he said. He stresses that federal participation is still unknown.
    The sand for the Delray Beach project will come from offshore, and the site has been identified and permitted. The project should take only a month, weather permitting. “The dredge is very efficient and high-volume,” he said.
    The renourishment project will occur along the beach just north of Atlantic Avenue  and south to Linton Boulevard. The last renourishment project in Delray Beach was completed in 2002 by the city as part of the scheduled 10-year cycle. Additional fill was added after the three hurricanes in 2004 and 2005.
    “The project is expected to provide upland protection to area roads and properties and improve the recreational opportunities, environmental conditions and sustainability of our world-class beach,” according to a city statement.
    Delray Beach has a long history of beach restoration, starting in 1973 after long-term erosion had destroyed virtually all of the beach and dune system. Regular maintenance of sand restoration since then has been designed to optimize recreation and storm protection. The city also has re-created a dune ecosystem along the Municipal Beach, which includes pioneer species such as sea oats and a “back dune” of scrub vegetation.
    The same dredge used for Delray Beach will be used for the Lake Worth Inlet; the county will dredge the inlet first before moving to Delray Beach. There’s no start date yet for Delray Beach.
    The Army Corps of Engineers also approved the county’s assessment of damage at Ocean Ridge’s beach, and renourishment is planned for a year from now.                        

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