UPDATE: County denied $8.1 million for beaches, but project may proceed

By Lisa Zahner

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — A hoped-for $8.1 million in federal stimulus dollars for beach replenishment has been turned down, but lower-than-expected bids for the needed sand may enable Indian River County to proceed with renourishment of a 6.5-mile tract of beach stretching from Treasure Shores Park to the north end of John’s Island.Bids for the long-promised project, designed to shore up beaches eroded by hurricanes Frances and Jeanne in 2004, were opened today at 2 p.m. 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 next 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 will be reviewing the submitted bid packets this week and next to come up with a workable solution 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 most likely be on the August 18 agenda of the Indian River County Board of County Commissioners. The contract for the project, however, cannot be awarded until permitting is finalized through DEP and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Glynn said that permitting is slated to come through next week. He said the committee has urged County staffers to get this project underway.

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