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Palm Beach Inlet to be dredged starting mid-April, with projected completion date in June

Posted on April 10, 2024

Barges will soon be dumping sand offshore of the North End as part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ dredging of the Palm Beach Inlet, said an expert working with the town’s Coastal Protection program.

Work is expected to begin within the next few weeks and will continue until June, said Mike Jenkins, a coastal engineer with West Palm Beach-based Applied Technology & Management, an engineering firm that works for the town. Speaking at the Shore Protection Board’s April 4 meeting, Jenkins said the 100,000 cubic yards of sand the Corps will dredge up will be dumped near shore just below the inlet’s southern jetty, around the stretch of water east of Onondaga Avenue.

The Army Corps plans to transition from a daytime only work schedule to a 24 hours a day, though Jenkins noted that the work is not expected to disrupt the quality of life of residents, since it will be limited to near-shore dumping.

Board members asked whether the sand could be placed farther south near Angler Avenue to ease its migration to the beaches south of the project. Town Director of Public Works Paul Brazil said that because of the project’s small scope and concerns over the ocean floor around Angler Avenue, the Army Corps had decided to limit the project’s sand dumping range.

However, he noted that a larger dredging project planned for 2025 will include onshore sand placement from the inlet’s southern jetty to Angler Avenue.

Palm Beach shorelines have shown improvements since February erosion

The board meeting also featured a positive update on the conditions of the town’s beaches.

Thomas Pierro, principal engineer for Coastal Protection Engineering, an engineering firm working with the town on coastal protection policy, said that the town beaches showed marked improvement since the especially turbulent conditions at the end of last year and beginning of 2024.

Pierro said that while significant erosion did occur during February along the coast near the Dorchester condominiums, the sand that moved onto the beach from the beach’s dunes restored its condition before the town’s 2021 dune restoration project. “And there is (dune) reconstruction coming, so, kind of on target, even if it doesn’t make you feel so great,” Pierro said.

Moreover, he noted the increased beach width for the stretch spanning from the Ambassador Hotel to La Bonne Vie Condominiums, which he attributed to sand migrating south along the coast. “We’ve had a lot of years where we never seen sand like this,” Chair Melissa Ceriale said of the stretch known as Reach 8.

While board member Ronald Matzner acknowledged the improvements, he said he had not seen waves reach the South End’s dunes before, and asked if it was a sign of more turbulent wave patterns. Pierro said he was unsure but did note that Palm Beach experienced a king tide, full moon and nor’easter winds all at the same time in November, which significantly raised the tidal levels.

“The bottom line is that we are due for a project … all the previous sand we have placed isn’t lost. It’s still in the system. It’ll recover in the summer,” Brazil said. “But it’s time for another project, and it’s scheduled, budgeted and we are on our way to do it.”

Army Corps Midtown Beach renourishment project will start in 2025

Pierro also announced that the Midtown Shore Protection Project, the federally funded Army Corps’ plans to replenish sand on Midtown Beach lost to erosion caused during the 2022 hurricane season, is not expected to begin until 2025.

While town staff had pushed to initiate construction this year, Pierro said that concerns from the Army Corps design team over the project’s sand supply and the 11 beachfront parcels that have not granted easements led to the 2025 start date.

He said that instead of waiting for the easements, the Army Corps has officially excluded the section of beach stretching from roughly Wells Road in the north to Sunrise Avenue in the south from the project’s range. Brazil said that it is now up to the town to fund the replenishment of that section.

If the town decides not to fund the project, that stretch of beach may lose its state-registered erosion control line, a boundary between the public and private owned portions of the beach. Losing that boundary may have long-term repercussions for that stretch of beach, Brazil said.

“No one will have the ability to place very much sand there again, without establishing the (boundary),” he said. “So, the window is closing on that section, permanently.”

While the Town Council appeared open to funding the project during its March meeting, it would still require construction easements from those property owners, said town engineer Patricia Strayer during the March meeting.

That may prove to be a challenge considering that the town is engaged in litigation with several of the owners related to past beach work and the question of who has access once publicly paid-for sand is placed on a private beach.

Town Attorney Joanne O’Connor said the town is arguing that since it has renourished this stretch of beach in the past with public money, the public should have the right to access the beach below the boundary as public land. The owners contend that it is all private land.

O’Connor noted that a summary judgment hearing is planned for July 9, which she said will hopefully resolve a number of legal issues.


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