BROOKSVILLE — The e-mail assistant county engineer Gregg Sutton got from state environmental regulators was just the thing to make his Friday even better.
Finally, good news from the State Department of Environmental Regulation had arrived on the long-awaited project to dredge the Hernando Beach Channel.
The agency on Friday sent out its notice that it intends to issue a permit that would allow Hernando County to send the dredged materials — called spoils — to the county's old sewer treatment plant site on Shoal Line Boulevard.
The approval of a spoils disposal site has been the sticking point on the project for more than a year.
The news is critical because the clock is ticking on getting the project under way and completed in time for Hernando County to collect the $6-million in state grant funds it needs for the $9-million project. The county is kicking in the rest of the cost.
Public works officials have said the project must be bid by March to make that timeline work.
"We're very pleased, obviously, and we're grateful that the FDEP really went the extra mile in reviewing and approving the permit,'' Sutton said.
Now, the county holds it breath.
Officials must publish a newspaper advertisement announcing the DEP's intent to issue the permit. Anyone who wishes to challenge that action has 21 days to do so.
Sutton is familiar with the process because this isn't the first spoils site that DEP has said it would permit. The other site is the controversial Eagle Nest Drive property owned by the prominent Manuel family.
Residents around that site did challenge the DEP approval within 21 days after that notice was published last year.
For months now, the residents, the county, the DEP and Manuel LLC, which intervened in the case, have been winding their way through the challenge process and are set to have formal hearings on their environmental concerns Jan. 28 and 29.
The Manuel family's attorney has also indicated there may be people who will challenge the new permit within the allotted time. If that happens, it is unclear whether the start of the project will be dragged out too far to save the state money.
The details of the Shoal Line Boulevard spoils site project are outlined in the notice issued Friday.
The project is to construct and operate a 6.5-acre spoil drying and storage facility that would include a mechanical system to dry the material, a 5.28-acre dredge soil stockpile, a berm to control the sediment and pipe route stretching 1,770 linear feet.
About 50,000 cubic yards is expected to be pulled out of the channel when it is widened, straightened, lengthened and deepened, a long-needed safety improvement for the waterway.
Sutton said he was encouraged by the issuance of the notice.
"We're just going to keep pressing ahead,'' he said.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1434.