Beaches and Shores Committee plots out beach renourishment Monday

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — The plan for renourishing beaches from Treasure Shores Park to the north end of John’s Island is now in the hands of a citizen committee which will review bids sumbitted and opened on August 3.The Indian River County Beaches and Shores Preservation Advisory Committee will take up this issue at 3 p.m. Monday.  Their work will be more of a challenge, considering that a hoped-for $8.1 million in federal stimulus dollars for beach replenishment has been turned down. But members are still hopeful about being able to undertake the project because bids came in much lower than expected for the needed sand. So the County may be able to proceed with the stabilization and enhancement of the 6.5-mile tract of beach.The long-promised project to shore up beaches eroded by hurricanes Frances and Jeanne in 2004 would help pump or truck sand onto the beaches in front of homes, condominiums and a resort that have been in peril at various points and whose owners have had to bring in emergency sand to tide them over until the project started.Bidding was open to sand suppliers who wished to truck in upland sand as well as companies that pump in sand from off-shore. Four upland sand-miners submitted bids ranging from just more than $7 million to $10.2 million. The $7.2 million bid came from Ranger Construction of Fort Pierce, a company with a history of contracting with beachside communities to replenish beaches.Three off-shore sand-pumpers submitted bids of $8.9 million to $24.5 million. The $8.9 million bid was from Great Lakes Dredge and Dock of Oakbrook, Illl, the contractor who replenished several sections of Indian River County beach in 2007. Its bid for the final section was nearly 50 percent less than the $17.3 million budgeted for construction of this project, according to Bill Glynn, chairman of the Indian River County Beaches and Shores Preservation and Advisory Committee, which will take up the issue at its meeting on August 17.”My position, and I think the position of the rest of the committee, is that we want to get the best price in an equal quality sand,” Glynn said. “Our preference would be to keep the money on the Treasure Coast. If we can manage that, it would be a windfall for Indian River County.”

The County had thought that without the federal funding, it would be $6.5 million short of the $19.7 million projected cost of the project, which would encompass design and permitting work, filling in sand and stabilizing dunes, putting in plants along the shoreline, and observation and documentation of results for at least a year after completion. But with the lower bids for the sand, the project may be able to proceed without stimulus money.  Gorham said the status of the project in its entirety is unknown at this time.

“Our plan is to open the bids and review them to see if there is a viable bidder that has a cost low enough so that the County could go to construction this year or early next year using local funds and then go for reimbursement from the Department of Environmental Protection under the regular state cost sharing,” he said just  before the bids were opened..

Glynn said he is hopeful that the County will be able to devise an affordable option so, as he put it, “we can get sand on the ground” as soon as possible. Glynn cited a swimming pool in Marbrisa that has one end suspended in midair and buildings in Sea Oaks in peril as a result of sand being washed away. He said this stretch of beach had been declared “critically eroded” by DEP.

County staff has reviewed the submitted bid packets and will present some options for feasible solutions in hopes of starting work as soon as possible. If they can’t manage that from the bids received, the project could get pushed back to the fall or winter of 2010. Work can only be done from November to May to avoid the bulk of sea turtle nesting season.

Gorham said no beach renourishment projects were selected through the NOAA program, and that the only local environmental project that he could see on the list was a $3 million oyster reef project awarded to Martin County.

“They basically funded something less than 5 percent of the projects,” Gorham said. “It’s not a huge pile of money and a nationwide pool of applicants.”

The issue will be on an agenda of the Indian River County Board of County Commissioners in the near future. The Indian River County Beaches and Shores Preservation Advisory Committee meets 3 p.m. Monday in the conference room of Building B at the County Administration Complex. The meeting is open to the public.

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