Ponce Inlet, FL - The hydraulic pumps and pipes are rolling into place as an $8.55 million dredging and beach nourishment project in and around Ponce De Leon Inlet gets underway in Volusia County.
For the next eight months, a contractor hired by the United States Army Corps of Engineers plans to suck around 500,000 cubic yards of sand and other material from the bottom of the inlet and other nearby areas of the Intracoastal Waterway, creating a depth of 12 feet for boats and other marine vessels to safely navigate through.
Workers will use an 18-inch diameter pipe up to three miles long to feed the material on the river bed to a disposal area south of the inlet between Beachway Avenue and Maryanne Clancy Park.
Speaking recently on WNDB's Volusia Today, Volusia County Coastal Projects Manager Joe Nolin says the water current will eventually send that sand westward, adding extra material to the beach and reinforcing the coastline from erosion.
"Ponce De Leon Inlet and the surrounding Intracoastal Waterway channels suffer from chronic shoaling," Nolin added. "Sand moves in from the seafloor and flow[s] into Ponce De Leon Inlet at high tide. [The sand] comes into the inlet and clogs up the channel with sandbars."
Those sandbars create hazards for boaters trying to get in and out of the inlet, according to Nolin, and many of those sandbars received more material from hurricanes Matthew and Irma the past two years, which Army Corps officials say makes it even more urgent to get this project done right away.
The pipe used to move the sand will sometimes be on top of the water, making it visible to boaters, while other times it will be anchored to the bottom of the river bed or the ocean floor. Highly visible markers will be in place to help vessels safely navigate around the pipe, per Nolin.
No beach closures are expected at any point because of the project, but those who live near the inlet will occasionally hear the booster pumps needed to keep the pipeline operational. Dredging work is expected 24 hours a day, 7 days a week along the inlet until the project is complete.
The map above (courtesy Volusia County) shows what areas will be affected.