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Branick: Coastal money arriving

BEAUMONT — Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick updated commissioners’ court Monday on the ongoing coastal reconstruction project.

“We got $80 million from the BP Oil Spill,” Branick said. “There was some money that we fought real hard for from the Department of the Interior. We got an additional $14 million from them and (Hurricane) Harvey funding. We got another $8.5 million from Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Acts. Now, we’re up to about $105 million.”

The judge said the extra money would help buy more sand. The project originally called for 37 cubic yards of sand per linear foot of beach. With the extra money, that number jumps to 50 yards of sand per linear foot of beach.

“It will really increase the resilience of the coast,” Branick said. “They anticipate we’ll get our Corps of Engineers permit for the restoration project at the end of May or the first of June.”

Branick said the county would then begin procurement, which could take time because there are only three dredge companies in the United States that have the capacity to do the work. Branick said Jefferson County would have to work around the selected company’s schedule.

“We hope, by the latest, we’ll start putting sand on the beach by November,” he said. “We’ll have some biologist that will be stationed out there to make sure none of the activities disturb any of the nesting birds or sea turtles.”

While McFaddin Beach has not seen sea turtles since Hurricane Rita in 2005, the judge said he anticipates a return after the sand is placed.

Branick said there was a slight cause for concern when arrowheads started washing up on shore.

The sand that is being used for the beach is taken from a paleo riverbed a mile and a half offshore. While core samples were done to ease concerns of disturbing artifacts, Branick said Jefferson County has become a prolific place for finding arrowheads.

“There was a question by the Corps of Engineers whether or not those were washing in from the paleo riverbed offshore,” Branick said. “I think what has happened is — in the nine years before Hurricane Rita, we lost 42 feet of Jefferson County to erosion. In the 10 years following Rita, after our dune systems were knocked out, we’ve lost 358 feet.

“When the sand is gone, we are left with clay. When clay dissolves, arrowheads came up through the clay. That’s where they are coming from.”