BROOKSVILLE — The key component to Hernando County's plan to oversee dredging of the Hernando Beach Channel arrived Tuesday when the state said it would issue a new permit.
County officials wanted to change the existing permit to allow more flexibility. Their hope is that the project can be done at a lower price and quicker than the process stipulated in that permit.
Once the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's notice has been published, the clock starts ticking on a 21-day window during which affected parties can challenge the permit by seeking an administrative hearing.
The county won't wait for that period to pass before looking for a company that can dredge and dewater the spoils in line with the permit requirements. With the arrival of the state notice, officials planned to advertise their request for proposals for about two weeks.
On March 7, the County Commission will review the proposals and perhaps narrow the list, possibly approving a contractor that week.
County Administrator David Hamilton said he was pleased that the permit was now on track. "We've got a tight time line,'' he said. "But we're on schedule.''
The dredge, stalled by legal, environmental and financial issues for more than 16 years, now faces a Jan. 1, 2012, deadline for completion. Otherwise, the county faces losing the $6 million in state funding.
The project as designed would straighten the existing channel, deepen it to 6 feet, and lengthen and widen it to 60 feet. Boat operators have complained for years the channel has become increasingly unsafe.
Reach Barbara Behrendt at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.