Posted on November 27, 2023
Volusia County beaches will get a big helping of sand with two projects over the next couple of years, and a long-term planning effort for the beaches will launch soon.
The state of Florida made $82.7 million available to the county through the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to strengthen the coast after tropical storms Ian and Nicole struck in 2022. That includes $5 million that the FDEP awarded the county in 2022 for emergency sand placement. Those funds came at the direction of Gov. Ron DeSantis after he visited Volusia County’s damaged coastline following the storms.
Those storms, combined with seasonal nor’easters that followed, chewed away well over 6 million cubic yards of sand from the coastline. While the new projects won’t bring that back, they will replenish about 1.25 million cubic yards of sand to Volusia County beaches.
County officials have launched a webpage to provide updates on the projects at volusia.org/sandprojects.
The two upcoming projects will separately focus on areas north and south of the Ponce Inlet.
What the coastline looks like will depend largely on how many beachfront property owners give the county access through a temporary easement, county Coastal Division Director Jessica Fentress said.
“If somebody doesn’t provide me an easement, they’re not getting sand,” she said.
County officials also will soon start talking about crafting a long-term vision for the county’s coastline and how to pay for it, Fentress said.
Here’s a look at what residents can expect in the months ahead.
North sand placement project
The county plans to place about 700,000 cubic yards of sand north of the Ponce de Leon Inlet, and the county expects work to begin as early as the winter of 2024.
The sand will be dredged from the inlet and the Intracoastal Waterway to keep those areas navigable for watercraft.
The Army Corps of Engineers plans to pump dredged sand through a pipe “over the North Jetty north just past the Beach Street vehicular beach approach” and store the sand between that approach and the Oceanview beach approach in Ponce de Leon Inlet.
“Basically if you imagine like a vacuum hose that has a big screw on the end of it, they just kind of keep running this screw into the sand so that it liquifies the sand, and then it pumps that liquified sand into a pipe,” Fentress said.
From there the county plans to truck the sand to properties north of the inlet that have given the county a sand-placement easement.
The county will also be mailing out certified letters soon asking for easements to allow the Army Corps to stockpile sand for the project. Fentress said.
South Sand placement project
This project will place about 550,000 cubic yards of sand at properties south of Sapphire Road in New Smyrna Beach. Work is expected to begin in 2024.
The sand is coming from what officials refer to as Rattlesnake Island, which is just west of the Ponce de Leon Inlet. The Florida Inland Navigation District has a Dredged Material Management Area on the site. The county is able to harvest beach-quality sand from dredged materials.
The Florida Inland Navigation District uses tax dollars to support the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. In partnership with the Army Corps, the district uses dredging to keep the waterway navigable andfree flowing.
For the sand placement project, crews will pump sand through a pipe down the Intracoastal Waterway “to an existing underground connection at the western end of Sapphire Road.” From there the sand will travel east through an existing pipe under Sapphire Road to the beach.
The sand will be placed at properties south of Sapphire Road that have given the county easement access.
How do I get sand on my property?
Property owners have to give the county a temporary easement to be eligible for sand placement.
Fentress said that it’s important that as many beachfront property owners as possible sign an easement because gaps in the sand placement make an area more vulnerable to storm damage.
To find out how that works, or for other questions, contact the county’s Right of Way Manager Shannon Minchew at firstname.lastname@example.org or 386-739-5967, ext. 12236.
Fentress encouraged people to monitor the volusia.org/sandprojects website. The county plans to post information there about the status of easements that have been submitted.
How to get help:Volusia County will help pay for Tropical Storm Ian repairs.
What about the sandbags that the county placed on the beach to shore up properties?
After Ian and Nicole, the county placed large sandbags, called TrapBag systems, along vulnerable areas of the coast where property owners had provided easements.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection will require the county to remove the bags by March of 2025, Fentress said. But the sand inside the bags will be dumped where they’re currently located.
Properties that have TrapBags could also receive additional sand from the county’s north or south sand placement projects.
Those who already gave the county an easement for TrapBags don’t need to provide another for further sand placement, Fentress said.
Long-term feasibility study
The county also plans to use the state funds to formulate a plan for the long-term health of the coastline.
Fentress said the county will hold multiple meetings in all coastal communities to discuss the issue. The feedback will go into a feasibility study on ways to keep the coastline strong and healthy for years to come.
Fentress said she expects the County Council to consider plans for the feasibility study in December or January, and community meetings would follow that. Officials will also consider how to pay for the recommendations in the study.
“That will be your 50-year, long-term resiliency plan,” Fentress said.