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Delray is trying to get the beach back

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

Delray Beach wants its beach back — all of it.

In early October, the city took a calculated gamble and approved a $9.2 million beach renourishment project that would restore 2.2 miles of the battered beach to its original state. After Sandy hit and ravaged the beaches, that gamble looked like a great bet.

But the $9 million project leaves out about a half-mile of municipal beach and beach that is perceived as private, because it sits right in front of several oceanfront homes. Now, city officials and homeowners are trying to figure out how to restore those areas as well.

It’s not as simple as just dredging more sand. Dredeging has been approved by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for only the original 2.2-mile section of beach.

“It’s a permitting issue, perhaps more than a funding issue,” said Andy Katz, a representative with the Beach Property Owners Association who has been working with city officials to extend the beach restoration project north and south of the areas already approved for repair work.

“The mayor put it very well,” Katz said. “‘The barge is there, the sand is there and the beach that needs it is there. All we need is for someone to say OK.’”

The approved project runs from Thomas Street, just north of Atlantic Avenue and A1A, south to Del Harbor Drive, south of Atlantic Dunes Park. Efforts to convince the Environmental Protection Agency to let Delray pump more sand to fix up the rest of the beach have been unsuccessful, Project Manager Rick Spadoni told city officials.

“We still have to do something,” said acting Mayor Tom Carney. “We have a defendable reason to use that sand.”

Hauling sand from a site more than 100 miles away could cost as much as $45 per cubic yard of sand, instead of the $7 per cubic yard that it would cost by pumping it from right in front of the beach.

The city is now enlisting a team of lobbyists and asking residents and staff to ask state officials to make an exception to a rule that requires coastal towns to haul beach from an inland source.

The already approved project’s cost is reimbursable by federal, state and county governments but, to begin with, the city will borrow the funds and pay the interest.”

“Historically we have been lucky and the federal government has picked up 53 percent of the cost,” Planning and Zoning Director Paul Dorling told city officials during a workshop meeting Jan. 8. “Now federal money has become much more difficult to get. We have 47 percent covered and are still seeking the federal share.”

Acting City Manager Doug Smith said the city could look into several different funds to see if Delray can pick up the tab for the additional work. Although the $9 million main project is still underfunded, the city is forging ahead with it.

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