BROOKSVILLE — Don't look now, but the Hernando Beach Channel dredging project has just hit another snag.
But at least this time, the environmental glitch that has cropped up is actually a good news/bad news sort of scenario, Hernando public works director Charles Mixson told county commissioners this week.
Sure, the county needs to draw up a Plan B for how to mitigate for lost sea grass and, yes, that's going to cost some money.
But the upside is that Hernando County will be fixing a new area of damaged sea grass between Jenkins Creek and Bayport, a move that will improve habitat for local sea life.
And the really good news is that this glitch is not going to stop the dredging from moving forward.
As part of the long-awaited dredging project, the county was going to have to mitigate for the sea grass that will be lost when the channel is lengthened. The plan was to cultivate new grass where propellers have scarred areas near the beginning of the channel.
Once the dredge was done, the area would be marked so that no motorized vessels would enter.
But as the county's sea grass consultants arrived to do a survey showing where the scars were, they found that the sea grass had filled back in and no fix was needed.
Mixson said that state environmental regulators were not going to give the county credit for that and they needed another plan. That's when the sea grass consultants suggested cultivating the badly scarred areas just out from Jenkins Creek near Bayport.
Protecting that area from motor boats would be good for boat owners and sea life, Mixson said. It's a spot that is shallow and rocky, and motor boats should not be there, he said.
State Department of Environmental Protection officials have given verbal permission for the sea grass cultivation in that area, Mixson said Wednesday. Commissioners agreed to hold a public hearing Aug. 11 on the change in the county's sea grass protection ordinance.
Expanding the county sea grass consultants' responsibilities to the new area would result in an increase in their fee, which would be brought forward to the County Commission in the future. But Mixson said the project still would be well within budget.
The county is funding one-third and the state is funding two-thirds, up to a total project of $9 million.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.