Project could start Aug. 1

 

 

At long last, more than two years after first stepping down the path to a restoration project for St. Joseph Peninsula beaches, the Board of County Commissioners last Thursday awarded a bid.

Manson Construction, which is based in Washington state, will perform the work after submitting a bid to put the most sand on the beach within the county’s $10.2 million budget.

The start date is Aug. 1, though the timeline for the project is now entirely dependent on the U.S. Treasury Department approving the RESTORE Act funding application.

That application, part of a multi-year spending plan for the county’s direct allocation under RESTORE, has been with Treasury for more than a year.

However, due to amendment language required as the scope of the beach project was altered, combined with a required window for public comment, has pushed the final approval of the $2.8 million into summer.

Manson, according to Michael Dombrowski, the county’s consulting coastal engineer, will be using a large hopper to dredge the sand from an offshore borrow area.

That will mean instead of a potential 120-day project, Manson is projecting to complete the work and be off the beach within 45 days of the start date.

“Not only will they be quicker but there will be less monetary cost for supervision of the project,” Dombrowski said.

If the timeline presented last week proves accurate, that will mean the work will fall directly on sea turtle season, just as the season is transitioning from nesting to hatchlings emerging.

Dombrowski said he has communicated with Jessica Swindall with the St. Joseph Peninsula Turtle Patrol on a relocation plan.

Permits from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and U.S. Army Corps will allow for the relocations to be undertaken, Dombrowski said.

Manson was one of two bidders, the other Great Lake Dredge, on the project, which was re-bid late last year after the BOCC rejected the initial round of bids.

Those initial bids came in some 40 percent over the county’s budget.

In re-bidding, the county “reverse-bid” the project, requiring contractors to detail how much sand the county could purchase and place on the beach for the $10.2 million.

Manson’s bid was 705,882 cubic yards; Great Lakes bid less than half that amount.

The sand, Dombrowski said, should take the project from the Stump Hole rock revetment to the southern boundary of Billy Joe Rish Park, with sufficient sand to produce the desired width.

“That is the plan,” Dombrowski said.

Dombrowski said the county ended up saving money by re-bidding the project.

With the elimination of some surveying, oversight and inspection services due to the shorter timeframe for the project, the county saved right at $1 million, he said.

The unit cost per cubic yard of sand of $1.50 was also lower.

Had the county accepted the low bidder on the first round of bids last year, which was Great Lakes, it would have received 510,000 cubic yards of sand, based on per unit cost in the bid and the county’s available funds, Dombrowski said.

“There was a substantial cost savings by doing this method,” Dombrowski said. “We gained 200,000 cubic yards.”

The hope of the overarching plan is that sand placed on the southern end of the six-mile length of the project area moves, or accretes, north.

That was the case in the original restoration project of a decade ago, with a significant amount of sand, in the hundreds of thousands of cubic yards, move south to north.

Similar accretion is the hope in the future, but in the short-term the county has had to deal with some controversy regarding the origins of the project and the funding.

Some residents to the north of Billy Joe Rish Park have complained that while they were taxed as all peninsula property owners were to provide local funding for the project, under three separate taxing units, but will not immediately received sand as originally pledged.

In addition, some have criticized that a project deemed urgent two years ago, which was initially estimated to be completed nearly a year ago, has yet to start and will not wait for RESTORE funding.

“We need to get sand out there,” said Dr. Pat Hardman, president of the Coastal Community Association of Gulf County.