An already-delayed beach renourishment project scheduled to begin Tuesday is now likely held up until June as the Town of Hilton Head awaits the arrival of its contractor’s equipment.
An assortment of tugboats, crane barges and other water vehicles that originally set off from southwest Texas are now stuck off the coast of southwest Florida until rough weather and ocean conditions clear, according to Scott Liggett, the town’s chief engineer.
The town is working to coordinate the arrival of that fleet with a dredge from Alabama and about 45,000 feet of pipeline from New Jersey.
Contractor Weeks Marine was also delayed by the projects using that equipment in Texas and Alabama, though both are now finished, Liggett said Monday.
“They tell me now there is nothing standing between them and their commitment to bringing that dredge here to start this project,” Liggett said. Still, of the delay, he said, “It’s little bit discouraging, and a discouraging way to start the project, to stumble out of the gate like this.”
“There’s not a person on the island that wants to see this thing happen more than I do.”
Liggett will present Hilton Head Island Town Council with a revised schedule for the $20.7 million project at their meeting at 4 p.m. Tuesday. Under that schedule, Weeks Marine proposes starting a portion of the work June 1 and finishing in early August, then building another section of beach from mid-August to mid-October.
The revised schedule also flip-flops the previous order of the renourishment. If approved, work would begin along Port Royal Sound, then move to Sea Pines Reosrt and end with the central oceanfront beach heading into the end of summer and early fall.
Liggett had previously said the contractor had until Aug. 15 to complete the project or face penalties of $10,000 a day. However, the revised schedule would not result in penalties or change the project’s cost, as it is was one of three options the town gave to contractors when it asked for bids.
Attempts to reach a Weeks Marine representative were unsuccessful Monday.
The renourishment will place more than 2 million cubic yards of new sand on four segments of the island’s beaches to restore nearly a decade’s worth of natural erosion.
It also will refill the additional 160,000 cubic yards of sand stripped off the beaches during last fall’s historic storms.
Originally, the town hoped to begin the project in February and finish up before Memorial Day, avoiding the crush of summer tourists entirely.
The town then announced in February it would begin work Tuesday at South Beach in Sea Pines Resort, and finish the last of the work, on sections of the beach along Port Royal Sound near Barker Field, in early July.
The new schedule will, however, likely require the town to move more sea turtle nests than it originally hoped, Liggett said this weekend.
Because the turtles’ nesting season lasts from May 1 to Oct. 31, members of the Hilton Head Sea Turtle Protection Project will station workers at the renourishment sites overnight to make sure turtles avoid the pipes running horizontal to the beach.
If a turtle arrives to nest in the work area, operations must shut down until it lays its eggs, and the nest will then be relocated away from the work.
Revised beach restoration timeline
- June 1 — Work would begin on about 1.5 miles of shoreline between the island’s heel and the Barker Field area along Port Royal Sound.
- Mid-July to early August — The dredge would be repositioned to the south and work along about 1 mile of shoreline at Sea Pines Resort near South Beach.
- Mid-August to mid-October — About 5.5 miles of central oceanfront beach would be built between South Forest Beach and The Folly at Singleton Beach. Work would move south to north in Forest Beach then shift to The Folly and head south by Palmetto Dunes.
- Hilton Head beach restoration delayed, February 29, 2016
- Hilton Head beach renourishment project to begin February, end before summer season, October 20, 2016