By Dan Moffett
With the help of next-door neighbor Palm Beach, the town of South Palm Beach has a chance to begin a beach renourishment project by early next year.
“I would imagine we’d probably plan on the month of April,” Robert Weber, Palm Beach’s coastal protection coordinator, told the South Palm Town Council on Aug. 13. “That’s the furthest we could work before the beginning of the turtle season.”
Palm Beach is scheduled to begin dredging sand in November to replenish the beaches in the southern end of the town. Weber said the plan is to bring the dredging off the coast of Phipps Ocean Park by March. From the park, sand could be trucked the short distance into South Palm Beach to feed its eroding beachfront.
“I think that the project will take around three weeks to complete,” Weber said, and he estimated that it might take as many as 1,000 truckloads to build up the South Palm shoreline.
Along with the new sand, the plan calls for restoring the town’s dune line where possible by planting sea oats and other erosion-resistant species.
South Palm Beach Mayor Bonnie Fischer and Weber expect the cost of the project to run about $700,000. The town already has the money set aside. It was to have been used for a beach stabilization project that would have installed concrete groins along the shoreline. But Palm Beach County officials abruptly ended their support for the project earlier this year, saying it had become too costly and faced the threats of lawsuits from disgruntled neighbors to the south.
Because Palm Beach has been working with county, state and federal officials on renourishment efforts for the last two decades, no extensive permitting is required. The partnership benefits both towns: Palm Beach can reduce its costs by selling sand; South Palm can repair its beachfront by buying it.
The project still needs a number of important issues resolved in order to move forward:
• The Army Corps of Engineers must give its final blessing and then the go-ahead to get dredging started.
• Palm Beach must get satisfactory bids from two contractors, one for dredging and another for trucking.
• South Palm must negotiate easements from several condo associations to get access to the beaches for trucks and workers.
• Both towns must negotiate the details of an interlocal agreement to clarify the ground rules for the project.
• The storm season has to remain quiet so the dredging season isn’t delayed and doesn’t run into the turtle nesting season in May.
“I hope that everyone understands how lucky we are that Palm Beach is going to include us in this project,” Fischer said.
In other business, the Town Council unanimously approved setting the tentative millage at the full rollback rate of $3.59 per $1,000 of taxable property value.
The rollback rate is the millage level at which tax revenues remain flat compared with the last fiscal year. Property values in South Palm are up a healthy 5.57 percent over 2018. Even with the rollback, the town can expect to generate about a $90,000 budget surplus because of spending cuts, most notably the upcoming switch to the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office for police services.
“We’ve been able to give taxpayers a break on their taxes for four years in a row now,” Vice Mayor Robert Gottlieb said.