County needs more time for beach project

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — The Board of County Commissioners should not be surprised to find out Tuesday that Ranger Construction will not finish the first phase of the north county beach replenishment project by the April 30 deadline.

“If we could get the sand on the beach we could get it done,” said Bill Glynn, chairman of the Beaches and Shores Advisory Committee on Monday afternoon.

Despite rave reviews over the high quality of the sand going on beaches from John’s Island north to Golden Sands Park, the weekly updates have shown nothing but bad news on the progress of the project that, when all is said and done, is slated to cost about $15 million.

Less than half of the new beach and dune area has been constructed due to delays at the Ranch Road Lake Mine. Weather and equipment failures have been the major causes, but there have also been numerous changes to procedures and testing mechanisms along the way.

Ranch Road Lake Mine owner Steve Smith said that things happen every day to cause “headaches” and that this is inherent to construction. For example, crews could not work Monday because last weekend’s downpours had rutted and flooded the dirt road leading to the mine, preventing dumptrucks from passing.

County staff hopes to apply for an obtain an extension of somewhere between nine and 15 days from state and federal environmental regulators.

This would mean special permission to continue construction into official sea turtle nesting season. County Coastal Engineer James Gray said he needs a firm commitment and realistic time schedule from Ranger and from the mine prior to requesting the extension because regulators will want to make sure the project is completed and another, further extension is not needed.

Beach replenishment projects have been scientifically shown to perform better — both for the retainage of sand and for sea life habitat, if the placement of the sand is complete and continuous.

If the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Commission do not grant the extension, the communities of Baytree and Marbrisa — once critically eroded areas that privately funded emergency sand projects after the 2004 hurricanes — will not get their allotted sand in the first phase. Instead, they would expect to get their sand this fall in the second phase.

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