Following project delays over the winter months of 2015-2016, the Santa Rosa Island Authority (SRIA) is set to begin work soon to restore and renourish 8.1 miles of Pensacola Beach shoreline.
The project will replace sand loss experienced from Hurricanes Gustav, Ike, Ida and Isaac, as well as natural background erosion over the last ten years.
Weeks Marine, Inc., of Covington, La., soon will arrive to Pensacola Beach with two trailing suction hopper dredges, the R.N. Weeks and the B.E. Lindholm. These two dredges are currently completing the neighboring Navarre Beach project. Upon completion of that work, the dredges will move directly to Pensacola Beach.
The renourishment project will begin just west of the Park East parking lots with the placement of the first of four half-mile-long submerged pipelines extending from the Gulf landward onto the beach.
The hopper dredges will take turns excavating sand from an offshore borrow area approximately four miles out, then ferry it to the near shore submerged line. The dredger will hook up to a floating hose connection to pump the sand onto the beach.
When first deposited on the beach, the fill sand will have a slightly gray cast to it and may have a higher percentage of shells and shell fragments in it. This may be of great interest to seashell collectors. After a few days, the new sand will dry out and bleach to a nearly white color, matching the color of the sand presently on the beach.
In total, the project will deposit 1.75 million cubic yards of sand along the Pensacola Beach shoreline, equating to almost 117,000 dump truck loads of sand.
From each pipeline landing point, workers onshore will first disperse the sand to the east for roughly one mile, and then deposit it to the west for one mile. Once completed, operations will shift to the next submerged pipeline landing to the west.
The landing points are spaced about two miles apart along the shoreline near Park East, Avenida 23, Avenida 10 and the Sans Souci Condominium on Fort Pickens Rd.
During construction, small segments of the beach will be closed for sand distribution and grading. Work is expected to progress quickly down the beach and will continue round-the-clock, seven days a week, until the job is complete. Impacted beach areas should only be closed for a few days. Sand ramps will be constructed over the shoreline pipe to allow access to the waterline.
The entire project is expected to last 60-75 days. Each day, environmental monitors will be riding the beach, inspecting the area for sea turtle nests and shorebird activity.
Sea turtle nests laid within the oncoming project work zone will be relocated to safe areas in the adjacent National Seashore. Thus far this season, six turtle nests have been relocated from the project area.
Once the dredge has placed the beach-fill sand, beach crews will de-compact the sand using a tractor with a special tilling attachment to soften it and make it easier for sea turtles to nest.
The project is intended to be a maintenance renourishment, designed to keep the beach in a healthy, protective condition for years to come.