BROOKSVILLE — The long-awaited dredge of the Hernando Beach Channel is back on, thanks to the state approval of the modified permit Wednesday.
The dredge has been stalled by the state Department of Environmental Protection since January because the previously approved system didn't filter out enough of the sediment. The project will now include additional steps, including settling ponds and use of a coagulant.
County officials said they will notify consultant Halcrow Inc. and the contractor, Orion Dredging LLC, that the permit is in hand. The ponds required under the new system can now be built. And Orion, which got permission to move its equipment elsewhere while the county was awaiting the permit, will be asked to bring back the needed dredging equipment.
Both tasks will be done at the same time to expedite the project.
"I am very excited to have received the permit,'' interim Public Works director Susan Goebel said in a news release. "Since my assignment to the dredge project, I have been very anxious to see it under way.''
Just two weeks ago, the DEP accepted the county's application after months of discussion about the project. By law, the agency had 90 days to issue a permit, but all the parties have been trying to get the work started again as soon as possible.
The county will publish an official notice of the permit approval. Any objectors then have 21 days to challenge the decision, but officials have said they hope they've worked through all of the concerns and the dredging can resume.
Legal, financial and environmental problems have plagued the dredge project for more than a dozen years. County officials have spent months devising a new spoils disposal system that would meet the DEP requirements.
The dewatering site for the dredged material is on 6 1/2 acres at the county's old wastewater treatment plant site on Shoal Line Boulevard. Adding settling ponds, using the coagulant to help settle the solid sediment out of the water and trucking the spoils to an off-site storage spot at the Sun West Mine in Pasco County were all part of the solution worked out with state environmental regulators.
Orion has notified the county that it will submit a change order request that will cover those new requirements.
Only 6 percent of the dredging has been completed. The project, which was originally budgeted at $9 million, is funded two-thirds by the state and one-third by the county. The state recently extended its deadline for project completion to June 30, 2011.
The work to lengthen, straighten, widen and deepen the channel has long been sought by local recreational and commercial fishermen because the channel has been a dangerous passage clogged with rocks and shallow areas.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.