Sebastian News

10 FAQs – Sebastian Inlet District’s Channel Maintenance Dredging, Sand Bypass and Beach Renourishment Project

  1. What is beach renourishment or restoration?

Beach renourishment, sometimes referred to as beach restoration, is one method used to stabilize a critically eroded beach.  Beach-quality sand is either dredged and pumped onto the beach or trucked in from an upland source.  Once the sand is placed on the beach, bulldozers and other equipment shape the sand to build a proper beach profile according to specifications designed by coastal engineers and authorized by permits.

Within the Sebastian Inlet, there is an area known as the “sand trap” that the Sebastian Inlet District continuously monitors to access sand accumulation and volume.  This 42-acre, submerged depression to the West of the inlet collects sand and is dredged every 4-5 years when filled to capacity (approximately 150,000-200,000 cubic yards). 

  1. Why are beach renourishment projects important?

Beach erosion is not an entirely natural process, some is man-made.  The damning of coastal rivers, shoreline armoring and the construction of inlets in the early 20th century have interrupted the natural North to South flow of sand along the East coast and has increased erosion.  Beach renourishment is in large part scientific, modern-day efforts to mitigate this made-made erosion and to restore the natural sand transport system.  The Sebastian Inlet District works with coastal engineers, marine biologists and other scientists, and our partners at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission (FWC) in permitting, planning and conducting all beach renourishment projects.

In addition and per the State of Florida’s Beach Management Act, the Sebastian Inlet District is mandated to “bypass” sand that migrates into the inlet system primarily from beaches to the North.  Typical “bypass” projects will dredge sand from an inlet system and pump it offshore to put the sand back into the natural sand transport system.  The Sebastian Inlet District Commission has actively chosen to engage in projects that more resemble beach renourishment, because of the environmental and economic significance of our beaches, designing and constructing a template to enhance the dunes and upper berm. 

  1. Where does the newly placed sand go after the first major storm?

Sand is in constant, natural motion along our coast as an ephemeral system, and beach renourishment projects have been proven essential in treating erosion and stabilizing Florida’s coastline.  Coastal engineers anticipate and design for the sand to naturally spread from North to South, and East to West, along the project area.  All beach renourishment projects have a design life expectancy, also known as “Renourishment Interval” – the period of time before additional sand will be needed to reduce the erosional stress within the project area.  The renourishment interval for beach sectors 1 and 2, the three miles of beach just South of the Sebastian Inlet, is every 4-5 years.

  1. What will the renourished beach look like?

The project is placing 120,000 cubic yards of beach-quality sand on a 1½-mile stretch of beach to the South of Sebastian Inlet starting near McLarty Treasure Museum and ending just South of Ambersand beach access, denoted by FDEP R-monuments R10-R17.  After final grading and tilling, the beaches will be approximately 30-40 feet wider.

The beach is being constructed according to specifications drafted by Applied Technology & Management, Inc. (ATM), respected coastal engineering and design firm.  ATM is an industry leader that brings together teams of coastal engineers and designers, regulatory experts, environmental scientists and other professionals to design, manage and monitor beach renourishment projects.

  1. What are the environmental considerations associated with this project?

As one of the most biodiverse regions in North America, there are many critically important habitats surrounding the Sebastian Inlet that support a broad range of species.  Area beaches are home to the highest nesting density of sea turtles in the Western hemisphere.  Offshore and nearshore hardbottom reef is a prime grazing ground for juvenile, endangered green sea turtles and supports our fisheries.  Sea grass beds to the West of the inlet are also home to many different species.  Every project is carefully designed and planned, appropriate environmental protocols are put in place and the Sebastian Inlet District engages a whole host of partners to ensure no negative impacts to these important natural resources.

Specific to this project, there has been ongoing turbidity monitoring around the dredge and at the ocean-side discharge point conducted by Florida Institute of Technology to meet FDEP water quality guidelines.  Sea turtle monitoring protocol began on March 1 with biologists from Ecological Associates, Inc. (EAI) conducting daily nesting surveys at first light to clear beach crews to work.  Any night work will be confined to a 500-foot zone unless otherwise cleared by EAI’s biologists.  Post-project, scientists will monitor the beaches for the entire 2019 nesting season to ensure no impacts, including escarpments or changes in the profile on the beaches after final grading.  Immediately after project completion, marine biologists from CSA Ocean Sciences who conducted a comprehensive, pre-project nearshore hardbottom survey this summer will go in to conduct a post-project survey to ensure no sand has migrated to cover the nearshore hardbottom.  Post-project environmental monitoring is for a minimum of 3 years following completion.  In the last 10 years, Sebastian Inlet District renourishment projects have had no measured, documented negative impacts on sea turtle nesting or nearshore hardbottom.

To read more on the Sebastian Inlet District’s commitment to preserving our natural resources, visit the Projects Tab.

  1. Why does the sand look so dark?

Because the sand is being dredged from the submerged sand trap, the newly dredged sand will initially look darker than normal.  This is very common.  Once the sand dries and is bleached by the sun, it will be what you are used to seeing on the beach.  The District and our engineers frequently test the newly dredged sand for beach compatibility.

  1. I see a stationary, large boat in the inlet and a long stretch of pipeline on the beach, what is that and how long will it be there?

The dredge vessel will be positioned over the Sebastian Inlet sand trap during phase I of the project, before moving to phase II which is dredging of the channel that connects the Sebastian Inlet to the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) to widen and deepen the shoaled in channel so that boats can navigate safely from the ICW through the inlet and into the Atlantic Ocean.  The pipeline on the beach is the corridor the dredged sand travels through so it can be placed on critically eroded beaches.  Beach placement started at McLarty Treasure Museum and is moving South for a 1½ mile stretch past Ambersand beach access.  The pipeline is expected to remain on the beach through March and temporary sand ramps have been constructed at all public beach access points so as not to restrict access for residents and area visitors.

  1. How much does this project cost and what are the funding sources?

Total project cost is $2,945,000 and Sebastian Inlet District officials have applied for cost share funding available through FDEP and specifically earmarked for coastal and inlet management by the Florida State Legislature.  If awarded, 75% of the project will be covered by state funds with the remaining 25% paid by the Sebastian Inlet District.

The Sebastian Inlet District receives approximately $2M in funding each year from a property tax or millage rate levied on property owners within the District’s boundaries as created by the Florida State Legislature in 1919.  The current millage rate is 0.0877 and a map of the District’s boundaries can be found on the bottom of the About Tab, along with public financial statements.  From 2004-2014, the Sebastian Inlet District Commission reduced the millage rate by 68% and obtained cost-share funding in excess of $8M for various funding sources. 

  1. What are some of the benefits and who will benefit from this project?

There are many projects benefits for area residents and visitors.  In Florida, beaches are vital to our economy.  Florida’s beaches have an annual recreational value of $50 billion and the Sebastian Inlet is bordered on both sides by Sebastian Inlet State Park, one of the most visited state parks each year welcoming an average of 900,000 guests.  Here are a few additional benefits of the project:

  • Storm Protection: A wider beach will provide better protection from hurricanes and storms.  Because the barrier island project area is so narrow, the possibility of storm surge breaching the barrier island and cutting State Road A1A is a serious consideration.  Beach renourishment is the only reasonably natural way to minimize potential impact for homeowners in this area.
  • Recreation: A wider beach for recreational users and visitors to a very heavily-used section of beach within Sebastian Inlet State Park is a priority for park officials and brings economic benefits to our area.
  • Boaters: A newly dredged channel will aid in the safe navigation to and from the inlet to the Intracoastal Waterway, and out to the Atlantic Ocean for recreational and commercial vessels.
  • Environmental: Having a marked, navigable channel helps protects sensitive seagrass beds on the flood shoal West of the Sebastian Inlet.  Prop scars were an at all-time high before the Sebastian Inlet District first dredged and marked the channel to the Intracoastal Waterway.  Environmental monitoring documented a dramatic reduction thereafter and field work conducted by marine biologists annually monitor, map and help protect this important habitat.  
  1. How can I learn more about this project?

The Sebastian Inlet District posts regular updates and project information on its website and social media, and we would welcome further discussion with anyone who is looking for additional detail.  To contact Sebastian Inlet Executive Director James Gray, please call (321) 724-5175.