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Consultant assures Hernando officials that Hernando Beach dredge will go on after work stalls

BROOKSVILLE — Work on the stalled Hernando Beach Channel dredge project is not likely to resume by March 1, as county officials had hoped.

But top national leaders at Halcrow Inc., the international company acting as consultant on the dredge, have assured Hernando officials that they will work diligently to get the long-awaited project moving again.

That was the best news County Administrator David Hamilton and interim public works director Susan Goebel could give to the County Commission on Tuesday about the controversial project.

They also said work to straighten and deepen the channel probably will not be completed by a state-imposed June deadline, which has been a major concern since state funding is tied to that deadline.

But Commissioner David Russell said state officials have assured him that funds will still be available after the deadline, provided the county can show that progress is being made.

"The progress they would like to see is that dirt coming out of the water," Russell said.

Halcrow and Hernando are several hundred thousand dollars apart on their estimates of what the county will pay to complete seagrass mitigation work. And discussions continue on a pay request for work already completed.

Purchasing director Jim Gantt said another meeting with Halcrow is set for next week.

Hamilton said top officials with the company who talked to county officials last week, including Halcrow's president and regional manager Michael Della Rocca, were so committed to making the project a success that they called back Monday to make sure talks with the local Halcrow representatives went well.

Hamilton said county officials assured Halcrow that Hernando would pay its bills, but "we needed this new commitment" from the firm. "They are completely dedicated to working with us," he said.

The county, consultant and the dredge contractor don't expect to get the latest batch of questions from state environmental regulators answered until later this week.

Goebel promised to bring a new time line for the project to the commission as soon as more information is available from the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The dredge stalled weeks ago after the DEP sent notice to the county that there was too much sediment in the filtered water that was being dumped back into the canal system near the channel. The dredge contractor has been designing a new filtering system that includes use of a coagulant to bind the sand and silt in the dredge spoils and a polishing pond.

County officials are working with the contractor to get a plan approved by the DEP so that the dredge can start again. Only 6 percent of the work has been completed.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1434.

Consultant assures Hernando officials that Hernando Beach dredge will go on after work stalls 02/23/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 23, 2010 7:29pm]

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