Unprecedented beach project takes exceptional teamwork

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - In November 2013, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District began an unprecedented project in Broward County to reconstruct 5.1 miles of eroded shoreline. The project, completed Feb. 28, was the first of its kind because it included 10,000 truck deliveries of sand from a mine in central Florida. The district uses the dredge delivery method to renourish federal beaches, but this project had to be completed prior to hurricane season and all dredges had been deployed to other projects.

The Corps' contractor, Eastman Aggregate Enterprises, started sand deliveries in early November, with crews trucking 126,700 cubic yards of beach quality sand 106 miles from the E.R. Jahan Ortona sand mine in Moore Haven to Pompano and Lauderdale by the Sea beaches. An average of 130 trucks per day carried sand, each driver navigating two hours one way to make a single delivery. The project required about 10,000 deliveries, all of which were accomplished accident free.

Cynthia Perez, project manager, said the day-to-day operations were phenomenal and so was the community's involvement and cooperation. People went above and beyond to "do the right stuff."

"One resident reported that people were rolling out a sand dune in the project area. We coordinated with our contractor, who had before-and-after beach construction photos, and sent them with a report to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) policy compliance biologist for action," Perez said. FDEP immediately investigated the dune destruction. Dunes are important because they provide landward protection and animal habitat.

On another occasion, a Pompano Beach resident reported that sand had not been placed in front of the Starlight Towers, between the building and where residents had planted rows of sea oats to help protect the beach. The area contained a small walking path, but the contractor wasn't able to move vehicles through without destroying the vegetation.

Resident Betsy Vienna told Perez, "I'll yank the vegetation out if you want me to, as long as you deliver the sand." Perez requested that the area be inspected and quickly realized the low elevation between the towers and the vegetation would have a "ponding" effect without the sand, which could potentially create an unsafe and unhealthy environment.

"I walked Betsy through the FDEP permit process and within two days, FDEP's 'Fritz' Wettstein reviewed and approved the vegetation's temporary removal. The next day, Eastman went back to place several truckloads of sand. If our relationship with FDEP and the contractor wasn't so good, we couldn't have gotten this done so quickly," Perez said.

"The contractor has just finished installing sand on the area behind our building. Five loads of sand!! The men were great to work with and they did an excellent job. Thank you very much from everyone here at Starlight," wrote Vienna in an e-mail to Perez.

At one point, the contractor stopped operations early and moved the construction vehicles to allow a wedding to take place on the beach. On another occasion, Eric Myers, Broward County environmental protection official, asked a resident to move his catamaran from the beach to facilitate sand placement. Realizing the man needed assistance, Myers, along with Corps and Eastman employees, relocated the catamaran.

It was teamwork every step of the way, Perez said.

Eroded island receives critical sand in time for hurricane season

Jacksonville District also completed dredging and renourishing of eroded beaches on Anna Maria Island in Manatee County, Fla. At an estimated cost of $12.3 million, the project was one of the largest renourishment events awarded by the district as part of the Flood Control and Coastal Emergency program.

Dredging and placement operations on Anna Maria began in mid-December 2013 and ran 24 hours daily. The Corps' contractor, Great Lakes Dredge and Dock (GLDD), placed approximately 900,000 cubic yards of dredged sediment from an offshore borrow area located south of Passage Key Inlet.

Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources Director Charlie Hunsicker said he was pleased with the renourishment, which was accomplished with minimal impacts to beachgoers.

The project required continuous coordination and communications between the Corps, contractor, sponsor, local residents and small businesses.

"The majority of project pumping operations occurred during peak tourist season on the island, with thousands of 'snow birds' vacationing on various beachfront properties," said Sirisha Rayaprolu, project manager. She estimated addressing about six phone calls a day from vacationers, local residents and businesses, to discuss the ongoing project.

"It was all about maintaining clear communications, explaining the methods of our operations, and building a sustainable beach for the county," Rayaprolu said.

She and the project field team coordinated extensively with the Beach House Restaurant on the island, to communicate the operations and schedule, which was a major concern for more than a dozen weddings scheduled at the restaurant location.

"The restaurant now has an additional 180 feet of beach behind and around it because of the nourishment," Rayaprolu said. "The restaurant owners and staff are very happy about this additional beach, and of course all the brides are even happier!"

Rayaprolu said GLDD was very accommodating to local concerns, and was in constant coordination with the Corps' field and district offices as the project progressed. GLDD built sand "walkovers" over the pipes, allowing people access to the beach. "The field office did a great job overseeing this contract also -- it was truly a team effort by all," she said.

According to an Islander Times article, the manager of the Blue Water Beach Club on the Gulf, Holmes Beach, said he couldn't be more pleased with how quickly the renourishment went. "And the people were very accommodating. When I asked that equipment be moved so guests could get to the beach, they immediately complied and were very pleasant. They did a good job and our guests were happy," Sebastian Mueller said.

Another success of this project is that Manatee County is now able to use GLDD to nourish a local sponsor project at Coquina Beach, located at the southern end of the federal project, and is saving substantially on the contractor's mobilization. The Corps and county were proactively engaged to ensure a smooth transition between the projects, Rayaprolu said.