Hutchinson Island residents and visitors will see work on local beaches this winter that will improve the barrier island’s resiliency to storm events and help reduce risks to infrastructure.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Jacksonville District awarded the Martin County Hurricane and Storm Damage Reduction contract Sept. 26 to take sand from offshore and place it on four miles of Hutchinson Island eroded shoreline. The Corps awarded the $7,250,400 contract to Great Lakes Dredge & Dock of Oak Brook, Illinois.
“Though this repair and renourishment project came about as a result of Hurricane Matthew, the timing of construction could not be better to armor Martin County’s further eroded beaches resulting from Hurricane Irma,” said Corps Project Manager Lacy Pfaff.
“This expedited project design was successful due to the partnership with Martin County and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. Together, we took a design and coordination period that usually takes a year, down to six months,” Pfaff said.
The project will place nearly a quarter-million cubic yards of sand on four miles of eroded beach, widening the beach berm and raising the elevation of the beach. The amount of increased beach width and height will vary along the shoreline. The Corps anticipates project work will start in November and finish by March.
“We have pushed our program to successfully emphasize Hurricane Matthew and Hurricane Hermine responses,” said Tim Murphy, Deputy District Engineer for Programs and Project Management. “We have awarded six contracts to date and have two more to award by December of this year. Our teams are continuing to press so we can quickly implement recovery actions for Hurricane Irma as well,” he said.
The Martin County project is partially paid for by Flood Control and Coastal Emergency (FCCE) funds due to damages incurred from Hurricane Matthew in October 2016. While Hurricane Matthew and this year’s Hurricane Irma resulted in significant erosion on some Florida beaches, Corps findings show the federal projects performed well.
The Corps of Engineers has the authority to repair and rehabilitate coastal storm risk management projects in the Federal program post-storm if they meet qualifying criteria established under Public Law 84-99 for Flood Control and Coastal Emergencies (FCCE). Federal shore projects can apply for funding to restore the project to pre-storm conditions at 100% federal cost if FCCE funds are available.
Federal shore protection projects are designed and constructed so the beach erodes during storms while protecting roads and structures. Along with providing economic stability and opportunities, beach renourishment projects also have inherent benefits in restoring critical habitat for shorebird and marine turtle nesting.
The goal of engineered shore projects is to reduce risk and promote coastal resilience. The projects help reduce damages to the economy, environment and infrastructure, and threats to human health and safety. Thousands of residents and businesses in Martin County benefit from this shore project. Coastal communities with engineered beaches have historically fared much better than other communities as proven by numerous studies.
The Corps completed initial construction of the project, between R1 and R25, in 1996 with periodic nourishments in 2001, 2002, 2005 and 2013. Construction on Hutchinson Island is set within an environmental window, from Nov. 1, 2017 to April 15, 2018, to avoid impacts to nesting sea turtles.