By Dan Moffett
South Palm Beach Town Council members unanimously approved an interlocal agreement with Palm Beach on Feb. 9, clearing the last administrative hurdle in the way of their long-awaited dune restoration project.
The approval effectively turns control of executing the beach plan over to Palm Beach.
“They are in charge, so we have to wait and let it play out,” said Mayor Bonnie Fischer. “We in South Palm Beach need to stay in our lane and go with the flow. We are the recipients of the project.”
Palm Beach officials have assured the council they have everything that’s needed to begin hauling dredged sand to South Palm Beach’s eroding dunes.
“The town of Palm Beach is responsible for securing all access,” South Palm Beach Town Attorney Glen Torcivia said. “They’ve told us they’ve got this covered.”
That is the good news for the town’s beachfront condo owners.
The not-so-good news is that work on the project is likely to run well behind schedule.
South Palm Beach’s restoration is a spin-off of a large, ongoing beach renourishment program in Palm Beach. Fischer told the council that in recent weeks dredging and sand-stockpiling problems have occurred, forcing delays to the master project.
The mayor had said she hoped work could begin on the town’s beaches by Feb. 1. That target has come and gone, and she now says the new start date for the project is April 1.
Fischer said Palm Beach officials have gotten clearance from the state Department of Environmental Protection to work through April but would need permission from Tallahassee to continue into May.
The concern for environmental officials is too much disruption to the turtle nesting season if the work drags on.
“We’ve been waiting for this for 10 or 11 years now,” Fischer said. “So we’ll wait some more.”
The partnership with Palm Beach is the replacement project for a plan to team with Palm Beach County to install groins on the beach. That ambitious initiative, more than a decade in the making, fell apart two years ago because of soaring costs and opposition from neighboring communities.
The new strategy calls for spending between $700,000 to $900,000 to buy sand from Palm Beach and install it with erosion-resistant plants along South Palm’s dune line. Palm Beach intends to stockpile dredged sand at Phipps Ocean Park, then truck it to South Palm Beach.
Town Manager Robert Kellogg said one benefit from the efforts to make the groin plan happen was that easement agreements for beach access with the condos were already in place.
“The easements were directly transferred from the county to the town of South Palm Beach,” Kellogg said.
Fischer said she hopes that the restoration will provide some cushion between the condos and the relentless ocean incursion that has damaged seawalls and stairways.
“It’s the only option we have left,” she said.
In other business, town officials say they’re satisfied with the warnings that went out when a broken water main in West Palm Beach forced a boil-water order for residents from Feb. 5 to 7.
The city sent out text messages and emails to all its customers, and South Palm Beach also sent alerts.
“We were in contact with them all weekend and kept residents informed,” Kellogg said.