Article Courtesy of NWF
By Tony Judnich
Published January 9, 2018
a major turn of events, Okaloosa County officials have made a “handshake”
agreement with three residents on big, proposed changes to the county’s East
Pass dredging/beach restoration project.
With the County Commission’s approval Jan. 15, the agreement could see the
return of $1.5 million in federal funding for the project. And a section of
Okaloosa Island beach might end up with a larger amount of dredged sand than
what was earlier proposed.
In early December, Condo Alliance of
Okaloosa Island officers David and Rebecca Sherry and John
Donovan petitioned for an administrative hearing to dispute
the Florida Department of Environmental Protection issuing
dredging permits to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the
Among other concerns, they alleged that the Inlet Management
Plan that determines where dredged sand is placed unfairly
restricts areas west of Destin, such as Okaloosa Island.
County officials maintained that the Inlet Management Plan
calls for sand to be placed where i is needed the most: In
this case, on Holiday Isle.
But because of the permit challenges made by the Condo
Alliance officers, county officials said the Corps of
Engineers would not participate in the project nor
contribute $1.5 million toward the entire project cost of up
to $3.5 million.
Holiday Isle in Destin
County officials then reverted to what they deemed “plan
B.” It called for Okaloosa to pay for the entire project cost with county
bed tax money.
It also included using a city of Destin dredging permit
to have about 240,000 cubic yards of sand dredged from the East Pass. About
120,000 cubic yards was planned to be placed on a stretch of beach on
Holiday Isle that extends about 4,000 feet east of the east jetty and about
30,000 cubic yards was to be deposited farther east on Holiday Isle. And in
what Commissioner Carolyn Ketchel called a “gentlemanly agreement,” about
90,000 cubic yards was to be placed on a roughly 1-mile strip of Okaloosa
Island just west of the west jetty.
The county Tourist Development Council approved plan B in late December. But
at that meeting, some TDC members angrily blamed the three Condo Alliance
officers for making the county use bed tax money for the entire project.
County commissioners approved plan B at their meeting Wednesday.
After that meeting, “I reached out to the Sherrys and asked them what they
want and how can we resolve this issue?” Deputy County Administrator of
Operations Greg Kisela said today.
While the FDEP had dismissed a complaint the Sherrys and Donovan had filed
about Destin’s dredging permit, the Condo Alliance officers still presented
permit challenges to the Corps of Engineers.
But Kisela said he and county Tourist Development Department Director
Jennifer Adams were able to wrap up talks with Donovan and the Sherrys today
about “a reasonable resolution to these issues so we won’t have to spend
$1.5 million” in additional bed tax money.
What resulted, Kisela said, “should be a win-win for everybody.”
In the new tentative agreement, the first 80,000 cubic yards of sand to be
dredged would be placed just west of the west jetty, 120,000 cubic yards
would go just east of the east jetty to what’s known as reach 1 and the
remaining 40,000 cubic yards would go farther east to reach 2 on Holiday
But if the county doesn’t get property owners’ permission to lay beach
renourishment pipes between the reach areas that are set to receive sand, or
if it’s too expensive to put sand on reach 2, half the sand would go on the
beach near the east jetty and half would be placed on Okaloosa Island near
the west jetty.
Overall, “At least 80,000 cubic yards, and maybe 120,000 cubic yards, would
go to the west” of East Pass, Kisela said.
The pending agreement “would allow us to utilize the $1.5 million from the
Corps,” he said. “Mr. Donovan and the Sherrys have agreed to stand down and
allow us to use the dredge” contractor the Corps uses.
With the County Commission’s approval, the Mike Hooks LLC dredging company
of Westlake, Louisiana, would perform the dredging and beach restoration
Kisela said the company, which has dredged East Pass at least twice in the
past 15 years, could start in early March and be completed in early May.
“We appreciate the Sherrys and Mr. Donovan working in good faith to get this
resolved,” said Kisela, who added that the sand-clogged East Pass has caused
big navigational challenges to military vessels, commercial fishermen and