BROOKSVILLE — State funding for the long-awaited Hernando Beach Channel dredging project has been extended for another year, interim public works director Susan Goebel announced on Thursday.
The project has been stalled since the beginning of the year when the contractor was unable to remove enough sediment from the dredged water to satisfy state environmental regulations.
Since then, the county has struggled to find a solution that would satisfy the state while still meeting its June 30 deadline to have the work completed.
With only 6 percent of the dredging done and state approval difficult to predict, county officials appealed to their local legislators to help get the deadline extended.
Now, the county has until June 30, 2011, to finish, Goebel said.
State funding is crucial to the project since the state pledged up to $6 million as a two-thirds match with the county funding a third of the final cost.
Officials with the state's Department of Environmental Protection are currently reviewing the county's plan to use settling ponds and a coagulant to clarify the water.
Settling on that fix has been as problematic as seemingly every other aspect of getting the dredge done. Once the state stopped the project, the county's consultant, Halcrow Inc., and its contractor, Orion Dredging Services, dug in their heels over who was responsible for designing a system that would meet the requirements of the state permit.
Finally, the county brokered a deal that assigned part of each of the tasks remaining to one of the entities or to the county to move the project further.
Once the water clarity questions arose, it was clear that the county couldn't make its own deadlines or the original state deadline. It is thought that after the state grants its approval on the new plan, it will take several weeks for Orion to mobilize again and an estimated 158 days to complete the dredging.
The dredge project has been in the planning stages for more than a dozen years, mired in a series of environmental and legal problems. Local residents have clamored for its completion to make the channel safer by making it longer, straighter and deeper.
"We have been making steady progress with resolving the issues with the Department of Environmental Regulation to enable us to resume the dredging operations, and now that we have received the funding extension for the project, we are confident that it will be back on course and completed," Goebel said in a news release.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.