GULF SHORES — Gulf Coast officials could be ready to start beach renourishment work by summer, but a final decision on when to start pumping sand onto eroded beaches will have to wait on …
GULF SHORES — Gulf Coast officials could be ready to start beach renourishment work by summer, but a final decision on when to start pumping sand onto eroded beaches will have to wait on discussions with business owners and residents,
At the last Gulf Shores City Council work session, Marc Acreman, city engineer, said almost all the reviews by the Federal Emergency Management Agency are complete.
"We received some really positive news on Friday evening. FEMA has completed their environmental review of our beach restoration project," Acreman said. "So, we are now moved back to public assistance and that is the final step."
He said FEMA will make a recommendation for the project to the Alabama Emergency Management Agency. The AEMA will have Gulf Shores, Orange Beach and state officials sign the project work sheet and funding should be released from the Department of Homeland Security.
"So, we are weeks now away from being authorized to procure a contractor for beach restoration instead of months as we have been in the past," Acreman said.
The project will be a joint effort by Gulf Shores, Orange Beach and the Alabama Gulf State Park to pump sand onto beaches from West Beach to Perdido Key.
"Not only does this council have to award the contract, the city of Orange Beach as well as the governor's office will also have to sign the same contract," Acreman said.
Work had been scheduled to start in November 2022, but FEMA permits were delayed, city officials said in earlier interviews.
Acreman said the permits are the only requirement needed to start work.
"We have three offshore sand locations that we did core bores on several years ago to make sure they are the quality and the color of our beach," Acreman said. "When it does come on the beach, it has a slight discoloration, and it oxidizes within a week to pure white sand that we're used to seeing."
He said procuring a contractor and awarding a contract should take about two months.
"I think we're looking at early summer being our earliest potential start date that we could start," Acreman said. "We still would have to get some clearances if we start that early from Fish and Wildlife for turtle nesting. There are some measures we would have to undertake to ensure that we would not disturb turtle nests or have a take on sea turtles, so there's some work we would have to do, but it's minor."
Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft said city officials will discuss plans with local businesses and others to determine when the project should start.
"That would put a position where another thing that I would think we would want to consider is communication with all of our resort properties and find out," Craft said.
"Doing beach renourishment on the beach while we have tourists here is a challenge," the mayor added.
He said city officials are now working on completing the permit process in order to be ready to start at the best time.
"Getting it approved as quick as we can so we can start whenever we decide to is important," Craft said. "But so are having conversations to make sure the safest time to do it and the best time to do it to enhance tourism instead of damaging it."