CLEARWATER — Technical difficulties have delayed the planned $1 million dredging of Clearwater Pass, with a new date scheduled for this fall, a year later than expected.
Flowing below the Sand Key Bridge, the channel is the quickest way to the Gulf of Mexico from Clearwater Harbor and much of the Intracoastal Waterway. It sees heavy boat traffic.
But in the decade since it was last dredged, the pass has shallowed in some spots to 5 feet deep, causing boats to drag and run aground. Without being dredged, the channel could close.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had expected to start the dredging project last September. But problems with the barge, the Murden, have delayed the work for months.
Sirisha Rayaprolu, the dredge's interim project manager for the Corps, said the newly built hopper dredge showed flaws during sea trials meant to test its pumps and pipes. "Every time they're out to sea," she said, "they find little issues they have to fix."
Now predicted to begin this September, the project will pump up at least 40,000 cubic yards of sand and sediment, which will then be deposited more than 300 feet off of Clearwater Beach north of Pier 60.
The project is expected to cost about $750,000 — money that will come from city reserves — but about $1 million has been budgeted to cover cost overruns.
The barge will move on to Longboat Key after Clearwater Pass is dredged.
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