Work is scheduled to get underway in the next few days, on restoring parts of Navarre Beach, by pumping sand from the Gulf of Mexico.
The firm Weeks Marine has been contracted to dredge and place 1.3 million cubic yards of sand onto the beach. Santa Rosa County Engineer Roger Blalock says the work will stretch from the border of Gulf Islands National Seashore to the west -- through Navarre Beach Marine Park to the east.
“The seas have been a little rough the past few days,” said Blalock. “They haven’t been able to move the sub lines from Pensacola Beach. Essentially, a hopper dredge will dredge material four miles offshore.”
At that point, landside equipment will shape the sand into a 150-200 foot wide beach, as called for by the construction template, along with adding native plants to the dunes. The beach makeover will also help protect the barrier island, in case a hurricane or tropical storm crashes in from the Gulf. Blalock says it’s the first such work in about a decade.
“We have had the end erosion in conditions that you anticipate as the surf and seas move up and down the face of that dune system,” said Blalock. “The western end has been severely impacted for a couple of thousand feet.”
“The quality of our beautiful, white sand beaches is without parallel across northwest Florida, when compared to other parts of the nation,” said UWF economist Rick Harper.
Rebuilding the beach will help protect the narrow barrier island during the next tropical storm or hurricane – and serve to help protect the region’s economy and the $1 billion that tourism generates per year. In some ways, the $17 million cost for the dredging could be viewed as an investment rather than an expenditure.
“Among the eight regions of the state that our state economic development entities track – Enterprise Florida, for example – northwest Florida is the one where beaches are the single most important amenity that our visitors enjoy.”
The beach renourishment is scheduled to be completed in June. The contract with Weeks Marine calls for a 50-day window. Santa Rosa County Engineer Roger Blalock says once underway, the work will be around the clock -- conditions in the Gulf permitting.
Work on Pensacola Beach is scheduled to begin after conclusion of the Navarre Beach project.