Beaches and Shores Committee votes to expedite renourishment

By Lisa Zahner

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — Faced with a dilemma of whether to fast-track renourishment of beaches this fall or to embark on permitting a relatively untested process of using sand from local mines to boost the economy, members of the Beaches and Shores Preservation Advisory Committee sent a clear signal to the County — just get the job done.

Barrier island residents have lived in fear of further beach erosion since the hurricanes of 2004 as the Sector 3 beach renourishment project has been in the design and regulatory process for about two years. About 30 members of the public, mostly beachside residents, attended Wednesday’s meeting, waiting to hear the fate of their beaches. This is not the county’s first time around in terms of beach renourishment. An area from the Sebastian Inlet south to Ambersand Beach was shored up in 2007. The county also took on the severely eroded Sector 7 area, which includes Castaway Cove. Those projects were completed by pumping in sand from the ocean floor just offshore, the way communities all over Florida have been renourishing beaches since the 1960s.

Earlier this year, local sand mine operators petitioned the Board of County Commissioners to open up the bidding process to them for the sake of jobs and supporting local businesses with taxpayer dollars. Commissioners agreed and staff adjusted the bidding requirements to allow for an upland provider of trucked-in sand to be able to qualify.

Jonathan Gorham, director of the county’s Coastal Engineering division of public works, said the process was definitely not the standard.

“To our knowledge, this bid process has been unique,” Gorham said.

After some confusion over whether the committee was to recommend a specific bidder or just to make a recommendation in general to the County Commission, Commissioner Peter O’Bryan gave the group some guidance.

“In my point of view, what would be most helpful to me is to give us your priority of whether it’s most important to get it done this year or the economics is the most important issue,” he said.

Some of the sand mine operators who had submitted bids were present and wanted to debate the merits of their proposals and the way the staff had ranked and analyzed them. They will be given a chance to meet with staff individually, but their concerns were not entertained in the forum of the meeting.

“In a general sense, I’m very uncomfortable discussing your bid or someone else’s bid, I’m very uncomfortable discussing the nuances,” said Mike Walther of Coastal Tech, the engineering consultant on the job.

Mike Ochsner, Town of Indian River Shores appointee, made the motion to recommend to the Board of County Commissioners that the first priority would be completion of the Sector 3 project in the 2009-2010 fiscal year ending September 2010.

The motion was seconded by Vice Mayor Tom White of the City of Vero Beach. The motion passed with Sebastian City Councilwoman Dale Simchick and appointee Robert Lindsey dissenting.

The Board of County Commissioners will make the final choice of a bidder on Sept. 8 at its regularly scheduled meeting.

The two bidders with competitive prices were Stormwater and Underground LLC and Great Lakes Dredging, which is the company the county used for the Sectors 1, 2 and 7 projects. Great Lakes is an out-of-state company, where Stormwater and Underground is headquartered in Sebastian.

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