Dredging, sand dispute could be resolved

Article Courtesy of  NWF Daily News

By Tony Judnich  

Published January 9, 2018


In a major turn of events, Okaloosa County officials have made a “handshake” agreement with three residents on big, proposed changes to the county’s East Pass dredging/beach restoration project.

With the County Commission’s approval Jan. 15, the agreement could see the return of $1.5 million in federal funding for the project. And a section of Okaloosa Island beach might end up with a larger amount of dredged sand than what was earlier proposed.

In early December, Condo Alliance of Okaloosa Island officers David and Rebecca Sherry and John Donovan petitioned for an administrative hearing to dispute the Florida Department of Environmental Protection issuing dredging permits to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the project.

Among other concerns, they alleged that the Inlet Management Plan that determines where dredged sand is placed unfairly restricts areas west of Destin, such as Okaloosa Island.

County officials maintained that the Inlet Management Plan calls for sand to be placed where i is needed the most: In this case, on Holiday Isle.

But because of the permit challenges made by the Condo Alliance officers, county officials said the Corps of Engineers would not participate in the project nor contribute $1.5 million toward the entire project cost of up to $3.5 million.

Holiday Isle in Destin


County officials then reverted to what they deemed “plan B.” It called for Okaloosa to pay for the entire project cost with county bed tax money.


It also included using a city of Destin dredging permit to have about 240,000 cubic yards of sand dredged from the East Pass. About 120,000 cubic yards was planned to be placed on a stretch of beach on Holiday Isle that extends about 4,000 feet east of the east jetty and about 30,000 cubic yards was to be deposited farther east on Holiday Isle. And in what Commissioner Carolyn Ketchel called a “gentlemanly agreement,” about 90,000 cubic yards was to be placed on a roughly 1-mile strip of Okaloosa Island just west of the west jetty.

The county Tourist Development Council approved plan B in late December. But at that meeting, some TDC members angrily blamed the three Condo Alliance officers for making the county use bed tax money for the entire project.

County commissioners approved plan B at their meeting Wednesday.

After that meeting, “I reached out to the Sherrys and asked them what they want and how can we resolve this issue?” Deputy County Administrator of Operations Greg Kisela said today.

While the FDEP had dismissed a complaint the Sherrys and Donovan had filed about Destin’s dredging permit, the Condo Alliance officers still presented permit challenges to the Corps of Engineers.

But Kisela said he and county Tourist Development Department Director Jennifer Adams were able to wrap up talks with Donovan and the Sherrys today about “a reasonable resolution to these issues so we won’t have to spend $1.5 million” in additional bed tax money.

What resulted, Kisela said, “should be a win-win for everybody.”

In the new tentative agreement, the first 80,000 cubic yards of sand to be dredged would be placed just west of the west jetty, 120,000 cubic yards would go just east of the east jetty to what’s known as reach 1 and the remaining 40,000 cubic yards would go farther east to reach 2 on Holiday Isle.

But if the county doesn’t get property owners’ permission to lay beach renourishment pipes between the reach areas that are set to receive sand, or if it’s too expensive to put sand on reach 2, half the sand would go on the beach near the east jetty and half would be placed on Okaloosa Island near the west jetty.

Overall, “At least 80,000 cubic yards, and maybe 120,000 cubic yards, would go to the west” of East Pass, Kisela said.

The pending agreement “would allow us to utilize the $1.5 million from the Corps,” he said. “Mr. Donovan and the Sherrys have agreed to stand down and allow us to use the dredge” contractor the Corps uses.

With the County Commission’s approval, the Mike Hooks LLC dredging company of Westlake, Louisiana, would perform the dredging and beach restoration work.

Kisela said the company, which has dredged East Pass at least twice in the past 15 years, could start in early March and be completed in early May.

“We appreciate the Sherrys and Mr. Donovan working in good faith to get this resolved,” said Kisela, who added that the sand-clogged East Pass has caused big navigational challenges to military vessels, commercial fishermen and other boaters.