Sand trucks gone, but will return (turtles willing) in November
The barrier island beaches are back open and when the deadline fell on May 7, a total of 95 percent of the promised 317,000 cubic yards of sand had been delivered and placed on 86 percent – or about four miles of the project.
The sand hauling project, which began on Feb. 9, cost taxpayers nearly $13.3 million, with another $1.6 million anticipated for the construction of a 1.6-acre artificial reef in 2013 to mitigate any sand which drifts onto the hard bottom or near-shore reef.
If Phase 1 is any indication of the volume needed to account for erosion since 2007, the county could receive a change order for another 100,000 cubic yards of sand, meaning an additional $1.5 million in costs on top of the nearly $15 million so far.
Even with $4.68 million from the Sebastian Inlet Taxing District, the county is running about $1.7 million over budget on the projected costs so far, according to figures provided by Jason Brown, director of the Office of Management and Budget.
The county also expects to incur additional costs for engineering, design and monitoring of the second phase of the project.
If there is a bright side for residents of Orchid in not getting their northern beaches replenished this season, it’s that they may get more sand on all Orchid beaches next year.
“Because part of Orchid didn’t get done, if there is any major erosion in Orchid over the summer before the next phase starts, we’ll be able to address that because it will be adjacent to the construction area,” Gray said. “In the other areas that got completed in Phase 1, that won’t be possible.”
Gray highlighted the project’s major accomplishments as offseting the historical losses and sediment deficit attributable to the Sebastian Inlet, restoring approximately 9.4 acres of recreational beach and critical habitat for sea turtles and shorebirds and providing additional storm protection for property and infrastructure.
Areas that didn’t receive those benefits this time around because contractor Ranger Construction ran out of time are Golden Sands Park, Sanderling and the northern sections of Orchid.
Baytree and Marbrisa were scheduled to be the orphaned properties, but a last-minute strategy shift in the final days of the project abruptly shut down efforts at Golden Sands Park and diverted efforts to Baytree and Marbrisa, in which residential buildings sit less than 30 feet from the dune line.
Bill Glynn, chair of the county’s Beaches and Shores Preservation Committee, in a recent meeting of the advisory group, had told county staff and contractors that “Baytree and Marbrisa have to be done,” and said that the residents of those oceanfront enclaves had been “victimized” by being scheduled last and put at risk of not getting completed, as they had put up their own money to fund emergency beach stabilization after the 2004 hurricanes.
Contractors will begin planting sea oats and other native vegetation on the newly constructed dunes starting May 17. That work will be completed with only light vehicles as to minimize disruption of the active turtle nesting going on in the area.
Over the summer, scientists will carry out a test plan, which has already been activated, to monitor sea turtle reproductive rates in the new sand.