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A $55 million rebuilding of Broward's scrawny beaches began Monday, after nearly 20 years of permitting work.

"We're happy to get the project kicked off," Broward Commissioner Chip LaMarca said Monday morning over the beeps and hums of heavy machinery at Vista Park in Fort Lauderdale.

For more than $10 million a mile, sand hauled here from LaBelle will beef up about 4.9 miles of coastline in parts of Pompano Beach, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea and Fort Lauderdale. The project is the first major renourishment in Broward in a decade, and the first sand infusion for some areas, such as the Galt Ocean Mile in Fort Lauderdale.

The sand and accompanying sand dunes will help protect roads and buildings from the ocean, LaMarca said, as well as provide a soft and scenic pad for tourists to enjoy.

In Fort Lauderdale on Monday morning, dump trucks traversed the narrow neighborhood streets to Vista Park, a tiny beach access in the 2800 block of North Atlantic Boulevard. The park will be one of several staging areas for the work, allowing sand to be spilled onto the shoreline, then spread out or trucked to nearby shorelines by heavy machinery.

Between now and May 1, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day but Sunday, 38,000 trucks will carry 750,000 cubic yards of sand to the shore. The soft, clean sand from a mine west of Lake Okeechobee is indistinguishable from beach sand, and will widen 4.9 miles of beach to an average 75 feet.

The work was expected to start when sea turtle nesting season ended in November, but the county hadn't obtained approvals from the federal government and also had not finalized agreements with the cities about how and where the work would be conducted. The county also missed a planned start date in December.

The work must be completed by May 1, so sea turtles can lay their eggs on the beach, or completion will be postponed to next fall, LaMarca said. The schedule could prove too ambitious, delaying sand for a portion of Fort Lauderdale's beach, but he said the contractor would attempt to get it done.

Earlier considerations of dredging sand from the ocean floor were nixed because of environmental concerns, LaMarca said.

The project, officially called Segment II, will require some beach closures, and beachgoers might see bulldozers along with the seagulls.

Initial work will take place in Pompano Beach at Southeast 12th Street going north, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea at Palm Avenue going north, and Fort Lauderdale at Vista Park going north.

The project has two spans: From Pompano Beach's Southeast Fourth Street to about 700 feet into Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, and from Commercial Boulevard to Terramar Street, which is south of Sunrise Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale.

The cycle is endless: Beaches must be rebuilt again and again, because oceanfront construction and cutting of inlets interrupted the natural ebb and flow of beaches.

The county has 24 miles of beach. The last major project restored 6.2 miles of eroded beaches in South Broward, at a cost of $23.8 million.

"Think of Broward County's beaches like a road,'' the county's renourishment website says, "requiring periodic resurfacing with sand.''