St. Lucie Inlet

  • St. Lucie Inlet
  • St. Lucie Inlet
  • St. Lucie Inlet
  • St. Lucie Inlet
  • St. Lucie Inlet

2018 Dredging Project Underway:

The St. Lucie Inlet dredging project is currently underway as of May 2018. The Virginian, a 55' dredge, is positioned in the green side of the channel with scows on the south. The project is a partnership between the Martin County Board of County Commissioners and the Jacksonville District of the US Army Corps of Engineers.

Part of the St. Lucie Inlet Maintenance Program, crews will move dredged, high quality sand to an offshore storage area where it will be available for future storm protection and restoration projects. 

Designed as a means for keeping the St. Lucie Inlet predictably and permanently navigable at authorized depths, the project is beneficial for Martin County’s commercial, sport, and recreational boaters as well as the lifestyle of residents and our natural resources. The project will also help meet state requirements to address erosion impacts on beaches adjacent to the inlet.

During dredging operations, boaters are reminded to use caution while traveling the inlet. The dredge will operate 24 hours a day unless there are unforeseen delays such as weather or mechanical problems. 

The project is 100% federally funded with Hurricane Matthew Supplemental Operations and Maintenance Funds and is expected to be completed by the end of summer 2018.

About the 2018 Dredging Project:

Components of the St. Lucie Inlet infrastructure were designed for two complementary functions: 1) as a means for keeping the St. Lucie Inlet predictably and permanently navigable at authorized depths by 2) focusing sand deposition into a confined area (Impoundment Basin) to facilitate removal and redistribution. The weir section (low spot) in the Inlet’s north jetty directs incoming sand over the jetty and into a deep basin that was constructed immediately inside the jetty – known as the Impoundment Basin.

The summer 2018 inlet maintenance project entails dredging material primarily from the impoundment basin along with any shoals that may have developed in the channel entrance, and transporting it to an offshore temporary stockpile area. The entrance to St. Lucie Inlet will be dredged to depths generally varying from 16 to 18 feet, and Impoundment Basin to at least 16 ft. deep. All dredged material will be transported by split-hull ocean scows and placed in a permitted offshore storage area which lies approximately 10.6 nautical miles southeast of the inlet.

This dredging operation is the first step in a two-step process, removing approximately 400,000 cubic yards of beach quality sand from the inlet and transporting it to the permitted "borrow site." The second step, to be completed in the next few years, will move sand from the borrow site to down drift beaches in compliance with the St. Lucie Inlet Management Plan (2016), mitigating erosive impacts resulting from the existence of the St. Lucie Inlet, providing critical storm damage protection and restoring beach wildlife habitats. This innovative process provides maximum efficiency and flexibility with estimated costs less than traditional methods. 

The St. Lucie Inlet connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian River Lagoon, the St. Lucie River, the Hobe Sound Narrows and the Intracoastal Waterway. These waterways are used by both recreational and commercial vessels and have shaped our communities over many generations. The natural flow of ocean water moving from north to south causes shoaling (sand build up) to occur within the St. Lucie Inlet.

When left unmanaged, shoaling in the Inlet creates serious navigational obstructions and limits the use of the Inlet as Martin County’s only outlet to the ocean. The exchange of water through the Inlet is also vital to the health of the estuaries, maintaining the necessary salinity and allowing movement of important recreational and commercially species between the two environments. 

  • An historical image of the inlet dredging

About the St. Lucie Inlet:

The St. Lucie Inlet is located on the southeast Atlantic coast of Florida separating the barrier islands of Hutchinson Island to the north and Jupiter Island to the south. The inlet connects the Atlantic Ocean to several lagoon and estuarine tidal systems, including the Indian River Lagoon to the north, St. Lucie River to the west, and Hobe Sound and the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway to the south.

The inlet was originally opened in 1892 by local residents seeking navigable access with the Atlantic Ocean. The initial cut was 30 feet wide and five feet deep, however, after six years, the inlet had widened by 1,700 feet and had deepened to 6 to 7 feet. In 1922, the channel had grown to a width of 2,600 feet.

The St. Lucie Inlet serves a vital role in Martin County’s economy, ecosystems, and lifestyle of its residents. Commercial, sport, and recreational fishing define life in this community and each relies on safe and dependable use of the inlet. St. Lucie Inlet is one of the widest in Florida, nearly a half mile (2,362 feet), making this shallow draft inlet vulnerable to elevated sea states. It became a federal project in 1913 through the Rivers and Harbors Act.

The St. Lucie Inlet Management plan was adopted by the state 1995 and updated in 2016. It identified a preliminary bypass goal of 195,000 cy/yr. with 161,000 cy/yr. to the south and 34,000 cy/yr. to the north. Placement has frequently been in the Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge, focusing on the area of Peck Lake. 

Dredging is typically conducted every two to four years to control shoaling in the three major reaches of this essential channel. Severe storms and adverse weather conditions can expedite the need for dredging, however, as material from beach and ocean areas settles in the mouth of the inlet and the inner channel, forming obstructive shoals. This shoaling results in an unreliable channel for boat traffic, negatively impacting safe navigation.

Of equal consequence is the health of the Indian River Lagoon, which depends on the natural flushing action provided by the healthy, open Inlet to remove stormwater runoff and discharge from Lake Okeechobee. Dredging provides effective management and bypassing of sands entering the Inlet, which maintains and enhances the natural flushing of these aquatic preserves.