Beaches south of the Port Everglades inlet are starving for attention.
For more than 90 years, the man-made inlet has cut off the natural flow of beach sand from north to south, reducing the amount of space beach-goers in Hollywood, Hallandale Beach and Dania Beach have to spread out their towels and soak in some rays.
Much of the sand piles up along shoreline north of the inlet, while some is lost in the inlet channel or pulled out to sea. It never makes it to the other side.
But that should change in the next few years with a sand bypass project that will take excess sand north of the inlet and pump it to beaches to the south.
Broward commissioners are expected to approve a contract Tuesday for the state to provide $19.2 million of the estimated $25.7 million cost. The county would be responsible for the balance. If the remaining permits come through this year, the project could start in the summer of 2020.
A bypass project has been discussed for close to a half century. It’s about time the project gets done, Commissioner Beam Furr said.
Furr said the dramatic difference north and south of the inlet can be seen from planes taking off over the ocean from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, with wide beaches to the north of the inlet and a much narrower ribbon of beach to the south.
“You look out your window, it’s an enormous difference. You need a camel to get out to the ocean on the north side,” Furr said.
The south county beaches will also benefit from a separate beach renourishment project now underway. The $7.9 million federally funded project is trucking in 123,200 cubic yards of sand — enough to cover 19 football fields with sand 3-feet-deep — from upland sand mines. The month-long project will deposit sand near Mizell-Johnson State Park just south of the inlet and in spots in Hollywood, Dania Beach and Hallandale Beach.
This is only the first phase of the federal project that seeks to replace sand lost during Hurricane Irma in 2017. A second phase would add about a million cubic yards of sand, but will take several years to permit and coordinate environmentally, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The total cost will be close to $55 million, officials estimated.
Once those are complete, the county plans to do more extensive work to restore south county beaches to their width pre-Hurricane Wilma in 2005. It is currently estimated to cost $54 million and would also involve more than a million cubic yards of sand. It is currently in the planning stages and would be eligible for 50 percent federal funding.
The sand bypass project will take care of about half the future renourishment needs of south county beaches, said Jennifer Jurado, the county’s environmental planning director. It’s estimated the bypass will provide between 100,000 and 250,000 cubic yards of sand every three years.
The project still needs final federal permits dealing primarily with the protection of coastal reefs. The construction will take place during turtle nesting season, Jurado said, because it has to be done in the region’s calmer summer waters. However, work will be halted temporarily when coral is spawning.
The bypass project would create a massive sandtraps underwater on the north side of the inlet that would be emptied every three years and taken south of the inlet.
A hydraulic dredge pipeline would carry the sand across the inlet. Once the sand is moved, officials estimate it will take about three years for the traps to fill again.
The construction would also remove a portion of a rubble spoil shoal north of the inlet, which will reduce the amount of sand piling up on the north shoreline. The change will allow more of the sand to go into the traps, causing them to fill faster.
This story will be updated based on commission action. Check back for details.