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Brevard’s beach project battles high tides; Dutra on the job

Posted on April 1, 2024

The sand trucks stopped rolling along Brevard County’s mid section for a few days as heavy surf lapped up to the newly built dunes — lapped too close for comfort for many condo owners.

But these are routine stops, said Mike McGarry, the county’s beach renourishment coordinator.

Here’s what’s happening:

This week, the contractor had to stop spreading sand along the dunes in the Satellite Beach area, because of high tides and rough surf.

“They just time their work around the tide as needed,” McGarry said.

Haven’t there been other delays?

Yes. Citing “delays in (dredging) equipment availability,” the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently announced plans to focus on dunes from South Patrick Shores to Indian Harbour Beach Club, until April 30, when all work on the beach must stop because of endangered and threatened sea turtle nesting.

How much does all this cost and what does it do?

The $47.6 million sand-pumping and placement project will restore dunes and beach from Pineda Causeway to South Spessard Holland Park.

The project aims to put about 1.1 million cubic yards of sand on 11.5 miles of beach from the southern border of Patrick Space Force Base through Satellite Beach, Indian Harbour Beach, Indialantic and ending in Melbourne Beach at Spessard Holland Beach Park.

Who is the contractor?

Dutra Dredging, of San Rafael, California.

How long does the contractor have to put sand on the beach this year?

By law, putting sand on the beach should end by the start of turtle nesting season on April 30.

Then, when the sand project resumes in November, the contractor will return to complete adding sand to “the dunes and all templated berms in the Mid-Reach segment, as well as renourishment of the entire South Reach segment as originally planned,” Corps officials said in a release. “The berm generally refers to the area of the beach between the dunes and the water.”

Where does the new sand come from and why does it sometimes look like dirt?

Dredges mine the sand from shoals about nine miles off of Cape Canaveral. The contractor stockpiles it on the beach between Spessard Holland North and South parks. The sand then gets hauled by truck north on State Road A1A to be spread along the beaches in Brevard’s mid section.

“It’s darker. It’s not organic-rich sand,” McGarry said. “There may be some dark shell fragments that have not bleached in the sun.”

Why don’t they just pump sand directly onto the beach?

They haul the sand by truck, instead of pumping it directly from the dredge onto the the beach, to minimize burial of nearshore rock-reef habitats.

Why are the nearshore reefs important?

A landmark paper about the worms by Florida State University in 1968 found that they have been “instrumental in building and protecting beaches of the geological past and in exerting control over the evolution of shorelines.”

Why else is the reef worth saving?

The federal government deems the reef “essential fish habitat.” A rare Sabellariid worm spans on nearshore rock reef from roughly Cape Canaveral to Biscayne Bay. The worms settle onto the nearshore limestone and build protective tubes out of the surrounding sand. The reefs they form, often exposed at low tide, create tide pools that provide vital habitat for marine life.

Does burying the worms kill them?

Yes, within several days, but they bounce back. The worms are very resilient and their larvae can quickly reestablish on the coquina rocks, especially in fall and winter, said Dan McCarthy, a biologist at Jacksonville University who’s studied the worms’ reefs from Palm Beach to Brevard for years.

Will the beach project conflict with Easter sunrise services?

No. There may be certain segments of beach off-limits Sunday but that’s not anticipated to conflict with any Easter services.


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