By Tim O’Meilia
The newest plan for saving South Palm Beach’s fast-eroding shoreline is a series of seven buried groins dotting the beach from the Tuscany condominium to the Ritz-Carlton resort.
At least, that’s what the computers say.
“There’s enough sand down drift from Palm Beach to feed the beaches north of the Tuscany,” Leanne Welch, Palm Beach County’s environmental program supervisor, told the town council May 28.
The groins would be coupled with 75,000 cubic yards of sand to fill in hot spots along the shore. Welch said computer modeling shows that plan is the most effective of the remaining choices and the one most likely to gain the approval of state and federal regulators.
With the modeling completed, an environmental impact study by the Army Corps of Engineers has been restarted. It had been stalled until the modeling was completed and until the town of Palm Beach chose its own plan for its southerly beaches, said Daniel Bates, deputy director of the county’s Department of Environmental Resource Management.
The project would cost an estimated $5 million and last three to five years, Welch said. More sand, at $1 million a year would have to be added every three years. South Palm Beach would pay 20 percent of the cost, the county 30 percent and the state 50 percent, if the state legislature appropriated the funds.
Bates estimated that the corps could begin taking public comment on the plan in the next six months after a series of public meetings. The final draft of the study is two years off.
Early last year, county commissioners dropped plans for a 1.3-mile project from southern Palm Beach to Manalapan that included a series of off-shore concrete breakwaters and several groins after a similar project for Singer Island was killed. Commissioners were concerned about the effects on sea turtle nesting and sea grasses.
“I’m not happy with groins,” said Mayor Donald Clayman. “I prefer breakwaters. They last much longer and are less expensive over time.”
Last June, commissioners indicated they would consider a project that did not include hard structures. The difficulty is that extensive hardbottom off the South Palm Beach shoreline makes a simple sand restoration project nearly impossible to be permitted.
Scientists concluded that sand renourishment would result in the hardbottom being covered, destroying the habitat of near-shore marine life.
The current environmental study is being combined with a similar study of Reach 8 in Palm Beach, from the Lake Worth beach to the northern boundary of South Palm Beach. A restoration project there had been previously denied because of similar environmental concerns.
In other business, the council:
• Approved a $24,500 contract with the town of Palm Beach to install a sewer interconnection between the town and Palm Beach which could be used in case of emergency. Manalapan is also part of the emergency interconnection.
• Agreed to buy 120 new cerulean-colored chairs for $29,000 as part of the refurbishing of the council chambers.