Tourist Development Council President Dan Rowe has said that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has “released the funds” for the beach renourishment project to its regional office in Mobile, Alabama. The funds will cover the approximately $15 million cost of replacing 1.4 million cubic yards of sand estimated to have been lost from Hurricane Michael.

PANAMA CITY BEACH — A major beach renourishment project for the 18.5-mile Gulf beachfront is a step closer.

Tourist Development Council President Dan Rowe told the group’s monthly meeting on Tuesday that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had “released the funds” for the project to its regional office in Mobile, Alabama. The funds will cover the cost of replacing 1.4 million cubic yards of sand estimated to have been lost from Hurricane Michael.

“This is very good news,” Rowe said.

Rowe declined to name a specific amount of the federal funds at hand, other than that it will be in the “tens of millions” of dollars. However, the same project listed in the Bay County Long-Term Recovery Task Force report said a beach renourishment effort of 1.2 million cubic yards would cost $15 million, with funding from the Corps of Engineers, FEMA and the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The recovery task force report stated that direct losses from the storm were 650,000 cubic yards, with the remainder a result of normal beach erosion. “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ … preliminary calculations indicate approximately 1.2 million cubic yards will be needed over the 18.5-mile project area to restore the project to its full benefit. … The offshore sand sources have already been identified and fully permitted,” the task force report concluded.

During the next few months, the TDC’s coastal engineering consultant will be meeting with Florida Department of Environmental Protection and Army Corps of Engineers officials to plot out the dimensions of the project, Rowe said. Barring delays, dredging could begin this winter.

Rowe told The News Herald he anticipated that the sand replacement would occur once “strategic areas” of the beach that suffered erosion are identified and not the along the entire beachfront.

The TDC also is preparing for an even more ambitious beach renourishment program to restore the three-mile beachfront at Mexico Beach, which took the full brunt of Hurricane Michael’s storm surge. That project, still in the preliminary planning stage, has been estimated to cost $25 million.