Island Residents Dispute East Pass Dredging Project

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Posted December 6, 2018

The Sherrys say that under the existing Inlet Management Plan, sand will be put on areas of Holiday Isle that are private and inaccessible to the public. They argue that if sand was placed on areas on the west side of the pass it would benefit public beach areas on the island.

DESTIN — An estimated 250,000 cubic yards of sand lying at the bottom of East Pass is coveted by residents on Holiday Isle as well as condominium dwellers on Okaloosa Island.

A dredging project scheduled to get under way in February has ratcheted up the bickering over who deserves what portion of the high-quality sand to be used to renourish their eroded beaches, and now the fight has resulted in legal action.

Earlier this month David and Rebecca Sherry, who head the Condo Alliance of Okaloosa Island, petitioned with a third party for an administrative hearing to dispute the Florida Department of Environmental Protection issuing dredging permits to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Sherrys allege that an Inlet Management Plan conpiled to determine where dredged sand is placed was approved by a committee largely made up of Destin residents. They say it unfairly restricts areas west of the city, such as Okaloosa Island.

“We support dredging East Pass so long as the sand is distributed in a fair and equitable manner. We object to East Pass dredge sand (the natural sand supply to the public beaches on Okaloosa Island) being taken and back-passed to inaccessible private beaches in Destin,” David Sherry said in an email. “We believe the natural flow of high quality sand to the public beaches must be preserved.”

Anticipating the court action could delay the dredging project, which is “overdue now,” according to Okaloosa Commissioner Kelly Windes, Okaloosa County has turned to a Plan B.

“If the Corps is unable to dredge, we’re looking for another option,” Deputy County Administrator Greg Kisela said. “The city of Destin has a permit to dredge the East Pass.”

The city can contract with the same dredging company the Corps of Engineers would have used to get the work done, Kisela said.

“The plan remains to bring the dredge here after it’s sent by the Corps to the Panama City area,” he said. “Once they finish there in mid to late February, they’ll bring it here to dredge.”

The Sherrys say that under the existing Inlet Management Plan, sand will be put on areas of Holiday Isle that are private and inaccessible to the public. They argue that if sand was placed on areas on the west side of the pass it would benefit public beach areas on the island.

“Unfortunately, the only way to get any consideration from Okaloosa County for the public beaches to the west is to initiate legal proceedings,” David Sherry said.

Kisela said that by taking legal action the Sherry’s and the Condo Alliance have reneged on an agreement forged over the summer in which it was decided the dredged sand from East Pass would be split about two-thirds to one-third between Holiday Isle and Okaloosa Island.

Contrary to what has been claimed at recent Condo Alliance meetings, Kisela said, Holiday Isle is not getting the bulk of the dredged sand because it is favored by the county and in the Inlet Management Plan. It is receiving the sand because its beaches are the most eroded.

“The IMP simply says whenever we dredge the sand goes to the beaches that are most critically eroded. That could be east or west,” he said. “You let the science drive where the sand goes, and once you fill it up you go to the next place. The IMP doesn’t say you always go to the east.”

Source: nwfdailynews.com