Beach Renourishment in Panama City Beach
The beaches of Panama City Beach that you see today are actually the result of 3 previous nourishment projects - completed in 1998/1999, 2005/2006, and 2011. In 1995, Hurricane Opal caused significant erosion of the beaches, and to combat this erosion and erosion from storms since then, nourishment projects have been undertaken to widen the beach for the benefit of residents and visitors, and provide protection for structures and infrastructure near the beach. In addition, the project provides habitat for nesting sea turtles and other wildlife.
Because of the 1998/1999 project, there was very little damage to upland development when Hurricane Ivan struck in 2004. The initial restoration of the Panama City Beaches in 1998-1999 placed approximately 9.8 million cubic yards of sand along the beaches. The 2005-2006 project placed approximately 3.3 million cubic yards and the 2011 project placed approximately 1.4 million cubic yards of sand along the beaches. This beach nourishment management program is much like a roadway or other such infrastructure - once it is built, it must be maintained.
The sand for these large-scale beach nourishment projects come from permitted, offshore "borrow areas." These borrow areas are investigated by coastal engineering experts to make sure the sand is the right size, composition, and color.
During construction, the sand is dredged from the offshore borrow areas into a hopper dredge or a cutterhead pipeline dredge if the borrow area is close enough to shore. The hopper dredge motors from the borrow area closer to the project site and hooks up to a submerged pipeline. With a cutterhead dredge, no transfer is required - the pipeline is extended directly from the dredge to the beach. The submerged pipeline runs from just off the beach up onto the beach and connects to shore pipeline, which runs laterally along the dry beach. The sand is discharged as a water/sand slurry mixture through the pipeline, and bulldozers reshape the sand to meet the designed construction template.
These beach nourishment projects are funded through a federal, state, and local partnership. The local cost-share is provided by a dedicated beach nourishment fund: the "Third Cent" Bed Tax, which is paid by short term visitors staying in hotels, motel, and condominiums.
Coastal engineers and surveyors monitor the beaches each year to evaluate how much sand remains - both shoreline change and volume change is computed. With this information, the next nourishment project can be anticipated and planned for, although a large storm event can make renourishment necessary sooner. At this time, there are no immediate plans to renourish the beaches.