A special meeting by the Board of County Commissioners is likely within the next 10 days on a proposed beach restoration project.

And, the options tossed out Tuesday night by County Administrator Michael Hammond during a public budget hearing must have sounded like fingernails on chalkboard to property owners within the once-proposed project area.

With a deadline looming for providing the contractor awarded the project a notice to proceed, the county could have to "kill the project or wait a year," Hammond said.

"We will likely call a special meeting in the next 10 days to determine a path forward," Hammond said.

Hammond added the board may have to opt for a project further reduced in scope.

The contractor, said Assistant Administrator Warren Yeager, is likely to need an answer in the next weeks concerning moving ahead with the project.

In a formal vote Tuesday, the board removed from the budget the $2.8 million RESTORE Act grant that represents the county's first-year direct allocation out of federal legislation to disburse fine monies from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The money has been pledged to the county for nearly three years and earmarked for nearly two years as part of a local match for a project to restore the beaches along nearly six miles of St. Joseph Peninsula.

However, the U.S. Treasury, which is administering the RESTORE grant program, has yet to provide formal approval of the county's application, despite earlier approval of the initial submittal under the county's multi-year spending plan.

The hurdle, according to Assistant County Administrator Warren Yeager, is a letter of unknown content from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concerning spending dollars in a Coastal Barrier Resource Act zone.

The exact same issue arose in 2009 when the county sought $15 million from FEMA in compensation for sand loss out of a prior restoration project after the county's beaches were raked by Hurricane Gustav.

Asked point blank Tuesday by Commissioner Phil McCroan whether the county could expect approval from Treasury within the next two weeks, Yeager was non-committal.

"I just can not tell you," Yeager said. "It has been a long process, I can tell you.

"They understand the timeline, all the issues, and the complexity of the project."

The grant dollars are the largest portion of a $4 million commitment by the BOCC.

Coastal property owners will soon enter their third year of paying a municipal services tax assessment to pay for the other $4 million committed by ordinance/resolution by the BOCC after a voter referendum.

The RESTORE grant obstacle is just the latest for the restoration project, which was initially hoped to be underway in 2017 and which was delayed after a first round of bids came in 40 percent over the county's budgeted funds.

A project that was initially to span nearly six miles will, under the latest bid specifications, span just over three miles.

But, now, that distance depends on Treasury and a timely answer.