Dredge is back in Destin and ready to finish what it started

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log
The Destin Log

The dredge is back and is expected to finish what it started by the middle of next week.

In late February, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer led-project started its efforts to dredge out East Pass and make it safer for boaters to navigate, but at the same time use the sand to restore the beaches just east of the jetties. The $2 million project was suppose to take between four and six weeks.

RELATED: East Pass dredging is a ‘win, win’ (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

However, with about a weeks worth of work left to do, the dredge broke in early April and had to go to Mobile, Alabama, for repairs.

But the dredge and crew arrived back in Destin early this week and began work on Wednesday.

“The good news is they are back,” said Destin Mayor Gary Jarvis.

RELATED: Broken dredge halts East Pass project in Destin

Jarvis said he noticed on Tuesday they were positioning to get back to work.

Jarvis explained that when the dredge broke they had about 100 to 200 yards to finish clearing out the pass to the area called the lip.

“They dredged all through the middle, between the rocks and out past the rocks. Where it’s dredged it’s awesome. I can’t wait for them finish the rest,” said Jarvis, who is also a boat captain.

The last time the pass was dredged was in 2014. In the last couple of years, the Corps of Engineers agreed to dredge the East Pass, but then reneged on its commitment, sending dredging contractors to other projects.

Before this dredging, Jarvis said the pass had gotten so bad that it was only 6- to 9-feet in some spots.

But when its all said and done this time the channel should be restored to where it was originally designed, 20 feet.

“We’re tickled to death to see them back,” Jarvis said.

In the past decade, he said the dredging crew came and dredged to about where they are right now, and then they ran out of money or time.

“So when the dredge started to leave this time and go to dry dock in Mobile, everybody was freaking out and my phone blew up that morning,” Jarvis said.

He said the dredge company actually tried to repair it on the spot with their own equipment but the damage was to great so they had to haul the boat out.

“So basically ... we’re just waiting for them to finish up,” Jarvis said.

But the progress so far is good, not only in the pass but on the beach as well.

“We had virtually no beach before,” said Darell Fink, general manager of Jetty East Condominiums, located just east of the jetties.

“Now we have the biggest beach we’ve had in years,” Fink said, noting that just goes to show how much sand has been pulled out of the pass. “It’s certainly a huge improvement.”

Jetty East on Holiday Isle, like many others, have suffered from storms that have eaten away at their beaches and protective dunes.

But the restoration and renourishment from dredging out the pass has made a “huge improvement,” Fink reiterated.

“It bodes well for any property,” he said, noting it preserves property values.

“It’s not just positive for us but for all of Destin,” Fink said. "We’re very pleased and highly supportive (of the project).“

Right now the crew is just waiting on a good stretch of weather so they can finish up that last couple of 100 yards.

“I’ve got my fingers crossed,” Jarvis said.

The cost of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-led project will be paid for with $1.5 million in federal money and at least $500,000 in county bed-tax revenue.