Long-awaited work set to begin soon on Navarre Beach

Pensacola News Journal Published -Monday, February, 27, 2006

By Derek Pivnick

Project ready to come ashore within days. The work should begin on the long-anticipated project to renourish Navarre Beach.

One million cubic yards of sand will be pumped ashore to add up to 150 feet of additional depth to the beach for 3.7 miles. Also, sand will be shaped into a 14-foot tall dune extending the length of the project, and vegetation will be planted to help provide erosion protection.

The $13.6 million project should be completed by June 1. Weeks Marine Inc. of Covington, La., is responsible for the renourishment work. The same company is finishing sand replenishment jobs at Pensacola Beach and Panama City Beach.

It's the first major beach reconstruction effort to take place on Navarre Beach since Hurricane Opal struck in 1995.

"Fantastic," beach visitor Guy Shifflett said. "I'm glad to hear they're going to put some sand back."

Shifflett and his wife, Jackie, recently moved from Santa Rosa Beach in Okaloosa County to North Alabama, but they remember how Navarre Beach used to be before Opal pummeled it. Their daughter lives in Navarre.

"You could hardly see the water, there were so many sea oats and dunes," Jackie Shifflett said.

Now, the surf laps up close to many of the Gulf-front buildings. Pilings are exposed on many structures, and battered homes and condominiums are visible everywhere, reminders of storms that struck the beach the last two years.

Adding sand could protect beach buildings from further storm damage.

Crews will begin on the west end of the beach and finish at the state park on the east end. The company will use public beach access locations to place equipment during the work.

It could take several weeks before sand actually starts flowing from dredges in the Gulf of Mexico. The dredges, four miles offshore, will take sand from the Gulf floor in about 60 feet of water and then pump it ashore.

It's possible that additional time and money may be required to make up for the effects of recent hurricanes that hit the beach, County Engineer Roger Blaylock said.

Weeks Marine will work to restore the beach to pre-Hurricane Ivan conditions, Blaylock said.

Even with the renourishment work anticipated to be finished by summer, lingering storm damage will mean tourism is unlikely to return fully until next year, said Kathy Newby, executive director of the Navarre Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.