The one certainty about a restoration project along the beaches of St. Joseph Peninsula is that sand should begin being tossed on the beach early next week.
Monday is the projected start day for contractor Manson Construction Co. on a beach restoration, though the county does not know, and may not know until the 11th hour, the exact scope of the project.
The scope hinges entirely on a RESTORE Act grant of $2.8 million and whether the dollars earmarked for the county several years ago will be released by the U.S. Treasury.
In black-and-white, if the money is released before the first grain of new sand hits the beach, in other words by Friday, the project extends to the southern boundary of Billy Joe Rish Park.
If, when the first grain falls the money is not in county hands, the project goes no further north than Scallop Cove.
Assistant County Administrator Warren Yeager said county staff had a positive phone conversation with U.S. Treasury officials last Thursday and he remained optimistic the county might get positive news by week’s end.
He said change-order paperwork was already completed to alter the scope of the project if and when the RESTORE arrives, and on time.
The Board of County Commissioners were compelled to move ahead with a project, any project, late last month regardless of the status of the RESTORE money, due to deadlines from Manson.
Manson was poised to move its equipment from the Mississippi River to the East Coast if the county could not provide a notice to proceed.
Had Manson moved on east, the project would likely be delayed until deep into next year.
The county issued that notice to proceed just over two weeks ago.
Manson, which initially estimated it would take two to three weeks to mobilize, already has equipment staged near the peninsula.
The $2.8 million RESTORE funds, the county’s first-year direct allocation under that federal legislation, have been with Treasury for some two years or more.
The latest hold-up was a question of whether using sand to restore the southern end of peninsula beaches was a proper exemption to rules under the Coastal Barrier Resource Act (CBRA).
Until late last month, that answer appeared to be no, or at least U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had not weighed in to support or oppose Treasury’s position it was an allowable expense.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife ultimately agreed, but the CBRA zone remained a factor.
With work beginning near the Stump Hole on the south end, within the CBRA zone in question, if sand hits the beach before the RESTORE funds are issued by Treasury, the money will not be approved for the restoration project.
So, the project that will begin Monday, starting at Scallop Cove and heading south to Stump Hole, will either be a $6.4 million or $10.1 million project (the difference between the $2.8 million plus 35 percent match dollars from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection).