PANAMA CITY BEACH — The Deepwater Horizon oil spill has not slowed beach renournishment plans by the Bay County Tourist Development Council to replenish sand in areas ravaged by 2004 storms on both the east and west ends of the beach, officials said Friday.
The two major projects, along with another effort to add sand at Pinnacle Port and Carillon Beach near the Walton County line, total about $22 million.
Since the April 20 oil rig explosion off the Louisiana coast, the permitting process for the beach replenishment projects has moved forward even as county and tourism officials struggled with planning for an eventual oil landfall and fighting tourism perceptions the oil would eventually overwhelm the beach.
“We have not changed our timetable for renourishing the beach because of the oil spill,” TDC Executive Director Dan Rowe said. “We have kept our foot on the accelerator. We never applied the brakes. We never stopped. We are moving forward as if it (oil spill) never happened.”
Total funding for the effort will come from about $19 million in federal funding and the rest from state and local sources, including the beach restoration portion of the TDC’s bed tax collections on short-term rentals.
TDC beach management consultant Lisa Armbruster has been promoting the projects with the U.S. Corps of Engineers since 2004, when four hurricanes struck Florida, including Hurricane Ivan. Those replenishment efforts were disrupted in 2005 when Hurricanes Dennis and Katrina struck coastal areas.
Armbruster said Friday the permitting process has continued even as the oil fears mounted.
“We haven’t had any delay with moving forward with our nourishment project coming up this winter,” Armbruster said. “We’ve plowed ahead, even with all the oil.”
Officials say the two major projects will involve replenishing about 5 miles of beach on the west end including the beach in front of Celadon Beach Resort http://www.bestpanamacitybeachcondo.com and about three miles on the east end, with the white sand coming from offshore “borrow” areas near the east end of Panama City Beach. The two major beach renourishment projects will move about 1 million cubic yards of sand. Celadon’s renourishment in 2005 lasted two weeks before hurricane Dennis washed the new sand away. Hopefully this attempt will be more successful. I do wonder why the projects are not done outside hurricane season. Can anyone answer that question?
Rowe said the smattering of tar balls that have come ashore in Bay County since the Deepwater Horizon explosion has not affected the sand deep down. The tar balls were quickly removed without oil seeping into the sub-surface, a situation experienced by Pensacola to the west, for instance.
“We will have to look again before we begin pumping the sand onto the beach,” Rowe said. “But here, there never was that kind of product. We haven’t seen the same impact. We were blessed.”
The two latest projects will bring to three the number of major beach replenishments in the county over the last 12 years, including a $21.5 million project in 1998 involving 7 million cubic yards of sand along almost 17 miles of beach.