2017 was to be the year for sand on the beach

 

As 2017 arrived it was hoped, and written in the pages of this paper, that a much-anticipated beach restoration project would begin the first half of the year.

As 2017 bids adieu, a timeline as well as scope of any restoration project is unknown, the county deliberating options while $4 million short of funding the dredge project initially envisioned.

While county staff and commissioners deemed the restoration project the most shovel-ready from RESTORE projects ranked by a citizens committee, and earmarked those funds for the restoration, the project has experienced nothing but delays ever since.

The process of applying for and receiving RESTORE funds, “in the bank” more than a year ago, according to county officials, proved far more time-consuming and cumbersome than, maybe too optimistically, expected.

The federal government’s gumming mechanisms also kicked in with the permitting, with an unexplained 18-month delay in a critical report before final permits could be issued.

Those, however, proved to be pebbles compared to the boulder the county encountered when the project was finally bid out in the fall, the end, it was hoped, of a process begun two years prior.

Despite taxes from coastal property owners, RESTORE dollars and Tourist Development Council funds, the county was still 40 percent short of the lowest bid, forcing commissioners to reject them.

As the year ended, staff was crafting options to present commissioners in January, weighing an inland sand source, a phased approach, pumping from shoals off Cape San Blas or re-bidding the project.

Nonetheless, other than the potential for addressing hot spots, it appeared that November 2018 was now the optimistic projection for the start of any major restoration project.

And South Gulf residents were warning that some structures might not survive another round of winter storms.