BROOKSVILLE — The County Commission on Tuesday unanimously approved a settlement that officials hope will open the door finally to the dredging of the Hernando Beach Channel.
The project has languished for more than a dozen years and has been tied up recently in legal challenges over two locations to dump the sand the dredge will suck out of the channel.
Under the settlement, the county will pay $196,000 to those who challenged the county's preferred site, the former county wastewater treatment plant on Shoal Line Boulevard.
Among those parties is Manuel LLC, which owns the other site, a parcel on Eagle Nest Drive that neighbors have opposed for years. The Manuels had an agreement with the county to use the site for the spoils, which would aid the family's plans to develop the site into waterfront homes.
Under the agreement, the materials will be pumped first to Shoal Line, but the sand will eventually go to Eagle Nest. The settlement calls for the county to provide Manuel LLC at least 40,000 cubic yards of the dredged material at no cost by June 30, 2010.
The project must be completed by then so the county doesn't lose the $6 million in state funding set aside for the $9 million project.
The county will also do water quality monitoring to ensure that the dredging and cleaning of the spoils don't impact the quality of Minnow Creek near Eagle Nest.
Several Hernando Beach residents praised the settlement as a way to finally start the work to straighten, lengthen and deepen the channel. They questioned whether any other possible roadblocks can be thrown up on the project.
County engineer Charles Mixson said he knew of none, and once the vote was taken he was anxious to call the state to find out when the permit will come. With bids on the project expected this month, work could begin this summer.
"It may not be palatable'' but because the work is needed for public safety and the area's economy, "I think we've come to the best possible venue here,'' said Commissioner Rose Rocco.
"It's been a long time in coming," she said after the vote. "It's a great day in Hernando County.''
Commission Chairman Dave Russell agreed: "It's a great day in Hernando County.''
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.