MELBOURNE BEACH, Fla. — The Space Coast will welcome the new year with quite a bit of beach repair work on its plate following Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Nicole.
What You Need To Know
- Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Nicole caused extensive coastal erosion in Brevard County.
- The South Shores project is estimated to cost $22.4 million from Hurricane Nicole alone.
- Work on the middle and northern sections of the Space Coast beaches will need approval and backing from the Army Corps of Engineers.
During a regular meeting on Dec. 6, the Brevard County Commission approved the National Resources Management Department to move forward with work to repair the southern-most part of the county’s beaches.
Back in October, the county estimated that the damage from Hurricane Ian was roughly $8.4 million and the county approved the work to restore the damaged areas.
However, Hurricane Nicole did extensively more damage when it came to beach erosion. The department estimates that in the 14 miles of shoreline that comprises the South Beaches, “approximately 293,000 cubic yards of material was eroded from the engineered dune during Hurricane Nicole.”
Estimates from that storm were $22.4 million in damages on top of the $8.4 million from Hurricane Ian. Not only did that dramatically increase the total cost of repairs, but the scope of the project as well.
Mike McGarry with the NRMD told commissioners that FEMA procurement requirements would necessitate a new bid for the Nicole work.
“The remainder of Nicole repairs together with the remainder of the Ian repairs will be addressed through the new bid,” he wrote.
The hope is to get as much repair work done before the start of the 2023 hurricane season in June. They also need to be cognizant of the sea turtle nesting season, which starts in March.
Ashley Chelberg, the executive director for Stella Maris Environmental Research in Brevard County, said she was glad that the county was taking the turtles into consideration as they expedite the repair work.
“Turtles seem to nest really well on these beaches with the new sand that’s being brought in and quite fankly, it’s better to have sand that’s brought in than no sand at all,” Chelberg said. “So, I think that the county is really working towards making sure that the sand is ready for the turtle season.”
She said it was fortunate that the two hurricanes came as late in the season as they did because they didn’t cause much harm to existing turtle nests. She cautions that as private residents work to restore their own beach adjacent property that they take steps to preserve or restore the natural plant life as well as the sand.
“Your property is healthier when your dunes are healthier,” Chelberg said. “Choppping down your health sea grapes and weed whacking sea oats, while not legal either, is still a very bad idea for when a storm might come.”
Because of the disaster declaration for Brevard County for both Ian and Nicole, the local share of the roughly $22.4 million is expected to be about 12.5 percent of the project cost.
The two northern sections of the county’s beaches, the north and mid sections, both require involvement from the Army Corps of Engineers.
Because of that, McGarry said the contract work for the roughly $40 million work along the 7.8-mile mid-section won’t be awarded until sometime in the summer of 2023 with work beginning in the fall of that year. He hopes that the northern section, which will cost roughly $21 million, will also fall along a similar timeline.