Channel Completion Project:
After many years, the Sebastian Inlet District received State and Federal permits to complete a public safety navigation channel connecting the Sebastian Inlet to the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). The first documented discussion of the project was in 1938 and continued over the years; efforts were stepped up in 1990 to obtain the necessary permits. The project provides a safe channel through the inlet flood shoal and connects the existing maintained inlet channel to the ICW, a federally maintained project. The channel dimensions include approximately 3,120 linear feet total length and 100-ft bottom width at -9 ft depth with 5H:1V side slopes to the existing grade. The channel dredging required removal of approximately 50,000 cubic yards of material. Dredging resulted in seagrass habitat impacts totaling 1.7 acres of sparsely vegetated area having approximately 27%-38% cover.
To compensate for seagrass impacts from the channel dredging, the Inlet District implemented a multifaceted mitigation plan which will include prop scar repairs on the flood shoal, boating education and posting of sensitive seagrass areas, and stormwater treatment in the region.
The completion of the Navigation Channel is not only a matter of public safety; it will greatly benefit the environmental resources of the Indian River Lagoon. In the past, boats ran aground due to shoaling and with no clearly marked navigation channel; boaters unknowingly ran over sensitive seagrass beds in order to access the Inlet. A clearly marked, deeper navigation channel will allow the seagrass beds to flourish without the threat of propeller scarring. The channel will allow a better flow of fresh saltwater to the Indian River Lagoon, increasing the salinity levels which will ensure better health of the estuary.
The channel completion project had a tremendous amount of public support. Letters of support and a petition signed by more that 2,000 local residents showed the need for this important project. The Indian River County Commission, the Brevard County Commission and the Florida Inland Navigation District provided resolutions of support. Dredging of the new completion channel was completed July 19, 2007.