In addition to the ease of shoreline access that an upcoming dredging of the Eastpoint channel will provide, the waters of the Apalachicola Bay are about to grow a new island.
Made up of dredge spoils from the channel dredge, which is slated to begin within the next several weeks, the island will be about 26 acres, roughly the size of seven football fields.
“Its ultimate use has not been discussed,” said former County Planner Alan Pierce, who has shepherded the dredge project. “It will be left open space.”
Pierce, who has been vexed by repeated delays in the Army Corps of Engineers’ timetable for the dredge project, managed to avoid any further ones at the Nov. 16 county commission meeting. He informed commissioners the Florida Department of Environmental Protection was now seeking a formal agreement as to whose island it would be.
“The state said ‘We’ll give you permission to build off our submerged land, but somebody’s got to own it and take care of it,’” Pierce said.
Commissioners quickly agreed to adopt the island as its own, and the paperwork is now in process for DEP to grant Franklin County an easement as it moves forward with the final steps of permitting the project.
“Commissioner Ricky Jones has told me he has gotten verbal assurance from DEP that the permit should be issued even if the easement is now quite resolved,” Pierce said.
Once underway, the Eastpoint dredge is one piece of a two-part $6 million project that also includes dredging of the Two-Mile Channel alongside Apalachicola.
The portion that runs the entire length of the Eastpoint channel, from Barbers Seafood on the east and all the way past the county boat ramp on the west, will run $3 million, with the Corps paying two-thirds of that out of its congressional allocation. The county will cover the remaining $1 million out of its portion of the 23-county Gulf Consortium money, which comes from Florida’s receipts of billions it received in its successful suit against BP following the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
The $3 million cost of the Two-Mile dredge will be paid for entirely out of the county’s consortium money. Pierce estimated that each of the 23 affected Florida counties will get about $11 million over a 15-year period.
He said the new island, attached to an opening of the breakwater into the bay, will look similar to the spoil islands that now exist off the Two Mile Channel. “Those islands now have a full stand of pine trees. You would have thought they had been natural islands,” Pierce said.
He said following the dredge, which should take less than two months to complete, the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve will oversee work in the spring by the Conservation Corps of the Forgotten Coast to plant vegetation.
“We’re buying material for them to plant,” Pierce said. “The key is how sandy will the substrate be? It might be brownish muck but we won’t know until it (the dredging) is done.”
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