Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

New overseer wants Hernando Beach dredging project back on track

Members of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Water Resource Assessment Team, Chris Anastasiou, left, and Pete Wenner, take photographs and make notes at the outflow site for the Hernando Beach dredging project Wednesday.


Members of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Water Resource Assessment Team, Chris Anastasiou, left, and Pete Wenner, take photographs and make notes at the outflow site for the Hernando Beach dredging project Wednesday.

HERNANDO BEACH — On just her second day as interim public works director, Susan Goebel stood ready to look the beast in the eye.

At midday Wednesday, she met state environmental regulators at the Coast Guard Auxiliary building here and prepared to visit the trouble spots of her new top priority: The snakebit Hernando Beach channel dredging project.

Shifted from her job in the county utilities department after County Administrator David Hamilton fired public works director Charles Mixson last week, and assistant county engineer Gregg Sutton quit on Tuesday, Goebel knows the stakes are high.

Problems with the dredging project were key in the demise of both longtime public works officials.

Goebel tried to get up to speed by reading reams of documents about the project over the holiday weekend and Tuesday. The soft-spoken 35-year-old mechanical engineer admitted that school was never like this.

Goebel said her first task is to hear directly from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection officials about their concerns and to find out about any other issues that might delay a project that already is falling behind schedule.

Her priority, she said, is getting the dredging back on track.

Dredging began in October but the pace slowed in recent weeks when the DEP found repeated environmental problems with rock removal and signs, among other issues.

When the dredged spoils started to go back into a canal still cloudy with sediment, the dredging was stopped and will remain so until the state approves a new plan for spoils disposal, said Ana Gibbs, DEP spokeswoman.

The agency is expediting the approval process, Gibbs said. The deadline is looming for the county to avoid losing state matching dollars for the $7.7 million project. Hamilton has set a meeting Friday with Halcrow, Inc., the county's consultant on the project.

In May, Mixson told county commissioners the extra $1 million he was seeking for Halcrow — which would double their contracted amount — should be enough to finish the project.

In a recent memo, however, Mixson said the county might need to pay Halcrow another $600,000 because of issues with mitigation for the destruction of seagrass.

Hamilton wants to talk more about that with Halcrow representatives and also talk to them about their contract obligations to monitor permit compliance by the dredging contractor on the job in light of the two warning letters the county has received over the various problems on the dredging.

The contractor has an April deadline to finish the work.

Goebel said Wednesday that they might get a slight extension taking into considerations days allowed if bad weather impacts their operation. The firm has assured the county that, once the issue of the turbid water is solved, the company will work 12 hours a day to finish the dredging on time, she said.

Hamilton is optimistic that the dredging will get done as promised.

"I have every reason to believe we will get it back on track and back on budget,'' he said.

His new point person on the county's top priority took her first step in that direction Wednesday by boarding a watercraft and heading out to face the growing menace.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at or (352) 848-1434.

At a glance

Hernando Beach channel dredging

Work began: October.

Cost: $7.7 million.

Scope of work: Make 3-mile channel wider, deeper and straighter.

Recent problems: Water returned to the canal has been determined by the state to be too turbid. Seagrass mitigation might cost more than the county expected.

New overseer wants Hernando Beach dredging project back on track 01/20/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 20, 2010 8:30pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Trump sprinkles political attacks into Scout Jamboree speech

    GLEN JEAN, W.Va. — Ahead of President Donald Trump's appearance Monday at the National Scout Jamboree in West Virginia, the troops were offered some advice on the gathering's official blog: Fully hydrate. Be "courteous" and "kind." And avoid the kind of divisive chants heard during the 2016 campaign such as "build …

    President Donald Trump addresses the Boy Scouts of America's 2017 National Scout Jamboree at the Summit Bechtel National Scout Reserve in Glen Jean, W.Va., July 24, 2017. [New York Times]
  2. Trump, seething about attorney general, speculates about firing Sessions, sources say

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has spoken with advisers about firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, as he continues to rage against Sessions' decision to recuse himself from all matters related to the Russia investigation.

  3. John McCain to return to Senate for health care vote

    WASHINGTON — The Senate plans to vote Tuesday to try to advance a sweeping rewrite of the nation's health-care laws with the last-minute arrival of Sen. John McCain — but tough talk from President Donald Trump won no new public support from skeptical GOP senators for the flagging effort that all but …

  4. Last orca calf born in captivity at a SeaWorld park dies


    ORLANDO — The last killer whale born in captivity under SeaWorld's former orca-breeding program died Monday at the company's San Antonio, Texas, park, SeaWorld said.

    Thet orca Takara helps guide her newborn, Kyara, to the water's surface at SeaWorld San Antonio in San Antonio, Texas, in April. Kyara was the final killer whale born under SeaWorld's former orca-breeding program. The Orlando-based company says 3-month-old Kyara died Monday. [Chris Gotshall/SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment via AP]
  5. Blake Snell steps up, but Rays lose to Orioles anyway (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Blake Snell stepped up when he had to Monday and delivered an impressive career-high seven-plus innings for the Rays. That it wasn't enough in what ended up a 5-0 loss to the Orioles that was their season-high fifth straight is symptomatic of the mess they are in right now.

    Tim Beckham stands hands on hips after being doubled off first.