BROOKSVILLE — As the county begins to advertise for bids for the long-awaited dredging of the Hernando Beach channel, the cost of dumping the spoil material on one site rather than another has become much clearer.
The difference: $2.6 million.
As it turns out, the location the county pursued for the last couple of years, the Eagle Nest Drive site owned by the Manuel family, is more expensive to use than the alternative site the county came up with late last year at the old wastewater treatment plant on Shoal Line Boulevard.
Cost estimates figured by the engineers for the dredge project in preparation for bidding put the cost of using the Eagle Nest site at $8,238,142, compared to $5,602,482 for the Shoal Line site.
The big differences between the sites relate to how the slurry dredged from the channel will be handled on each. On Eagle Nest Drive, the material would be put in a holding pond and left to allow the water to percolate and evaporate. Then heavy equipment would move the sediment to acceptable locations on the property, according to County Engineer Charles Mixson.
The handling and equipment costs would be nearly $3.5 million.
At the old wastewater treatment plant, the slurry would be run through a special machine that separates water from sand, and the sand would be left on the site. The cost for equipment, including the special machine, and handling would be $650,000.
Using that machine at the Eagle Nest site would require another permit review by the state Department of Environmental Protection.
"Based on these cost estimates, there is an obvious economic incentive for Hernando County to use the (wastewater treatment plant) spoil disposal site,'' attorney Richard Brightman told County Administrator David Hamilton in a memo Thursday.
Brightman is the Tallahassee attorney hired by Hernando County several months ago to expedite the dredge before the county loses the $6 million in state funds set aside for the estimated $9 million project.
The county must spend the dollars before the end of June 2010 or lose the state money.
The DEP has issued notices of intent to issue the permits for both sites. Residents near the Eagle Nest site filed a challenge. Manuel's corporation and two others filed a challenge to the Shoal Line Boulevard site.
Both sets of challenges allege environmental harm if the spoils are placed on those sites.
Hearings before an administrative law judge on the challenge to the Eagle Nest site were suspended in late January when a last-minute test result showed unacceptable levels of oil and grease in the channel sediment. Tests since then have shown no such finding.
While the Eagle Nest hearings have not yet been rescheduled, the judge has set hearings to resolve the wastewater treatment plant challenge for May 19 to May 21.
On Tuesday, after presenting the memo from Brightman to county commissioners, the commission will be behind closed doors to discuss legal strategy on the project, Hamilton said Friday.
Bids for the dredge are slated for opening April 22.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 848-1434.