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3 years after Hurricane Sally, Santa Rosa still mulling how to renourish Navarre Beach sand

Posted on May 1, 2023

Santa Rosa County Commissioners will be asked Thursday to decide how much, if any, Navarre Beach restoration they are willing to pay for.

Commissioners on Monday were presented with a preliminary design report that provided options for beach renourishment that include full restoration of 4.1 miles of coastline or a partial restoration of areas on the western side of the beach identified as being impacted by Hurricane Sally. Alternatively, the county could decide not to move forward with any restoration.

County staff has recommended the commission opt to add sand along the entire length of beach. One board member said that option made the most sense due to the cost of mobilizing equipment needed to rebuild the local coastline.

“We’re trying to save a ton of money,” Commissioner Kerry Smith said. “It’s a no brainer to go this way.”

The county has been considering pulling the trigger on beach renourishment since Hurricane Sally in 2020 displaced about 250,000 cubic yards of sand when its eastern bands grazed Santa Rosa County as it made landfall in Alabama. The storm came close enough to cause serious erosion on the westernmost side of Navarre Beach.

State, federal and county dollars totaling about $16 million were pledged in 2021 to conduct renourishment the following year, but according to the design plan, put together by Coastal Tech, those contracts will be revisited before actual work begins.

The Navarre Beach CBRA is located in front of the county park on the beach where most of the county’s pavilions stand, according to Santa Rosa County spokeswoman Sarah Whitfield.

Coastal Tech has analyzed the costs for both the partial and full projects and estimated federal, state and county costs to complete either.

The partial project being looked at would place 254,222 over approximately 1 mile of beach in the most erosion-impacted areas. The work is expected to cost $8.3 million to complete. The Federal Emergency Management Agency would cover $6.3 million of that cost and the county and Florida Department of Environmental Protection would each contribute a little more than $1 million.

To complete the entire 4.1 mile renourishment will require 881,500 cubic yards of sand and cost $17.8 million to complete, according to Coastal Tech. FEMA would cover approximately $3.9 million of that cost, FDEP and the county would be each be required to come up with about $6.9 million.

The county last renourished the beach in 2016, and works on an eight to 10 year schedule to repeat the process, according to Smith. The schedule had been pushed forward from 2026 to 2022 following Hurricane Sally, but delays have brought timing of the planned work almost back to where they would have been scheduled.

“With not having done it since 2016, we’re coming right up on the eighth year,” Smith said.

Coastal Tech’s design plan calls for sand to be used for the beach resurfacing to be dredged from an offshore “borrow area” where a survey done in 2016 determined an approximately 2.95 million cubic yards of “beach compatible sand are estimated to remain.”

Smith said by taking on the full renourishment plan, rather than doing one portion of it now and then starting over a year or two from now to finish the whole beach, would require repeating the hugely expensive task of bringing in the machinery to conduct the restoration.

Coastal Tech intends to present its plans for beach renourishment to the County Commission on Thursday at its regular meeting. Commission Chairman Colten Wright said because the item wasn’t discussed in detail at Monday’s Committee of the Whole gathering he didn’t have a clear sense of how a vote on the project might go.

“I do think it will be unanimous that we do at least the basic project,” he said. “As to the larger, we’ll just have to see.”


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