Our sugar white sands need renourishment from time to time to keep them soft and beautiful! The fifth renourishment of the Panama City Beach, Florida will begin September 2021, with anticipated completion by early 2022. This is a very important project for maintaining the health and beauty of our beaches! This project begins in on the west end of Panama City Beach near Pinnacle Port. The contractors will work down the beach over the following several months replacing over 2.1 million cubic yards of sand.
Construction mobilization started when equipment and pipeline were delivered to the west end project area beach. Active dredging and placement of sand on the beach started September 11, 2021. Equipment is delivered and moved continually along the beach for the duration of this project.
This renourishment project is taking place along two large project beach segments totaling approximately 12 miles. The “western” project area extends from Pinnacle Port to the City Pier. The “eastern” project area extends from St. Andrews State Park (not including the park) to Ocean Towers. The middle of the beach – from the City Pier to Ocean Towers – will not be renourished with this project. It did not experience enough erosion to justify renourishment in this area.
Approximately 2.1 million cubic yards of sand will be placed with this project. This will be the third largest renourishment done in PCB.
The initial restoration of the Panama City Beaches in 1998-1999 placed approximately 9.8 million cubic yards of sand along the 18.5 miles of beaches. The 2005-2006 project placed approximately 3.3 million cubic yards of sand along 17.5 miles of beaches, and it was conducted in response to 2004’s Hurricane Ivan.
The 2011 project placed approximately 1.3 million cubic yards of sand along a total of 7.5 miles of the beaches (east and west ends) and was referred to as a “repair” project as it was conducted in response to several storms following Hurricane Ivan. That project also formally incorporated a project at Pinnacle Port and Carillon Beach.
The 2017 project placed approximately 840,000 cubic yards of sand along a total of four project areas which included a half-mile at Pinnacle Port/Carillon Beach, a one-mile segment stretching west from the City Pier, a one-mile segment stretching west from the County Pier, and a one-mile segment stretching from the western end of St. Andrews State Park to Gulf Drive/Hurt Street.
The construction cost for this project is $28.5 million and is entirely federally-funded; there are no local or state matching dollars required. Because this is an authorized and previously built federal shore protection project, the project team secured Federal Flood Control and Coastal Emergencies funds for this project to replace the sand losses due to hurricanes Michael and Sally in 2018 and 2020, respectively.
The project will take approximately 4 to 5 months; however construction may move faster or slower. There may be circumstances that cause lengthy delays due to construction shutdown, like weather conditions or major repairs to equipment.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is managing the construction of the project. The Bay County Tourist Development Council, serves as the local sponsor for the project.
Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co. LLC is the dredging contractor. They were the contractor for the 2011 beach nourishment project.
The sand for large-scale beach nourishment projects comes from our offshore “borrow areas.” The main borrow area is located approximately 1.5 miles offshore of Shell Island, and secondary borrow areas are located near the St. Andrews Bay entrance channel.
The sand is dredged from the offshore borrow areas into a hopper dredge. The hopper dredge motors from the borrow area closer to the project site and hooks up to a submerged pipeline. The submerged pipeline runs from just off the beach up onto the beach and connects to shore pipeline, which runs laterally along the dry beach. The sand is discharged as a water and sand slurry mixture through the pipeline. The sand stays on the beach, and the water runs back into the Gulf of Mexico. Bulldozers reshape the newly placed sand to meet the designed construction template.
The sand coming out of the pipe is a water and sand slurry mixture. It often contains darker, fine material that washes out as the sand is reshaped on the beach by the bulldozers. This is not contamination.
Construction should progress at a rate of 500 feet to 1,500 feet per day. Barring any issues, this means the active construction area may only be in front of various condos for a couple days. Please be patient. Everyone, wants the project to continue moving down the beach and closer to completion as quickly as possible.
The active work/construction area is limited to an approximate 1,000-2,000-foot section of beach. To access the beach during construction, walk laterally along the beach until you get around the active work area. Locate a sand bridge that goes over the dredge pipe, and you will be able to access the Gulf.
Work will continue 24 hours a day. These are extremely expensive projects, and it is not feasible to halt work overnight or on weekends.
The beaches of Panama City Beach that you see today are the result of four previous nourishment projects: one completed in 1998/1999, the second in 2005/2006, the third in 2011, and the fourth most recently in 2017. Hurricane Opal (1995) caused significant erosion of the beaches and left very little dry beach along much of the Panama City Beaches.
To combat this erosion, as well as erosion from storms since then, renourishment projects have been constructed. These projects not only provide recreational beach width for the benefit of residents and visitors, but during storm events, the sand also provides critical protection for public and private structures and infrastructure landward of the beach. Because of the 1998/1999 project, there was very little damage to upland development when Hurricane Ivan struck in 2004. The same was true when Hurricane Michael struck in 2018. In addition, a healthy beach provides nesting areas for species such as sea turtles and shorebirds.
This beach nourishment management program is much like a roadway or other such infrastructure – once it is built, it must be maintained. The work you see ongoing now is a small maintenance project that will help ensure continued use of a sandy beach and storm protection for the upland.
The sea turtle nesting season wraps up about the time when the project is expected to begin. There are permitted procedures in place for relocation of nests that may be laid late in the season that might be impacted by the start of construction in September/October.
Thanks for your patience and cooperation during this necessary project to keep Panama City Beach, Florida beautiful for everyone who uses this amazing resource.