Beach building: Dredged sand used to repair erosion

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Cameron County expects to begin spreading roughly 94,000 cubic yards of new sand at Isla Blanca Park between the jetties and Sandpiper Pavilion on July 7. (Rick Kelley/Valley Morning Star File Photo)

With the city of South Padre Island wrapping up a beach “renourishment” project involving around 283,000 cubic yards of new, beach-quality sand distributed between Access 18-23, Cameron County is kicking off a sand replenishment project of its own.

The county was expecting to begin spreading roughly 94,000 cubic yards of new sand at Isla Blanca Park on July 7. The project is in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the Texas General Land Office (GLO) and the city of SPI.

The Isla Blanca project will cover the area between the jetties and Sandpiper Pavilion, “adding to the restoration, renourishment, and beautification of our pristine beach and its access areas in South Padre Island,” said a county spokesman.

County Judge Eddie Trevino Jr. welcomed the project.

“This is an exciting project we’re pleased to announce,” he said. “Many thanks to our federal and state agencies involved and the city of South Padre Island, as this grand partnership yields to a long-term benefit of our coastal beaches, the continued protection of our dune system, area wildlife, endangered species, habitat and park infrastructure.”

Sofia Benavides, county commissioner for Precinct 1, likewise thanked the local, state and federal partners for their help.

“This project will provide a wider and healthier beach for our visitors to enjoy and will help protect the beach at Isla Blanca Park against coastal erosion,” she said. “Beach renourishment projects are of significant importance to our area. This project ensures that our beaches and infrastructure remain resilient after storms and any inclement weather events.”

County Parks and Recreation Director Joe Vega said the sand for Isla Blanca’s and SPI’s beach renourishment is from the dredging of the Brazos Island Harbor Federal Navigation Channel (Brownsville Ship Channel) being undertaken by Weeks Marine Inc. under contract with USACE. The dredged sand is “fluidized” by the dredger and pumped into a 30-foot pipe from the Gulf to the beach. Bulldozers then spread the sand around on the beach.

The total cost of the dredging and renourishment projects is around $10.3 million, with the GLO’s Coastal Erosion and Response Planning Act grant program covering a portion of the cost.

Vega said the Isla Blanca project should take about two weeks, weather permitting, and that the work will be done one section at a time in order to keep the beach open. He noted that recent storms caused substantial erosion along Gulf Coast beaches, including those in Cameron County, and that renourishment projects mean more beach for visitors to enjoy.

“This project is going to replenish some of the beach that we lost,” Vega said. “Having a wider beach, it protects our native habitat, our dune system and our infrastructure. … These projects are very important for us to protect our beaches from erosion.”