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Replenishment of beaches slips behind schedule
BY LISA ZAHNER - STAFF WRITER (Week of March 18, 2010)

Construction was halted last week on the north county beach replenishment project.  

High winds and downpours called off all progress both at the mines and on the beaches for more than a day, putting the already-behind-schedule project in a little deeper hole.  

Processing at the Ranch Road Lake mine just west of the Quail Valley Golf Club had been going on seven days a week, nearly 24 hours a day with two dredge teams in play to keep feeding the never-ending stream of dump trucks arriving for loads of sand.  

That stopped when the drenching rain thwarted processing efforts. After the sand is processed, it must also be tested for grain size, quality and contaminants prior to being loaded up for its trek to the beach.  

The combination of high winds, surf and rain shut down the construction of dunes on Thursday afternoon and no work took place on Friday.  

With 41 percent of the allotted time elapsed and only 24 percent of the sand thus far delivered, getting the remaining 225,000 cubic yards of sand on the beach will mean an increased per-day volume of 5,300 cubic yards if weekends are used.  

Ranger has estimated that its trucks carry about 17 cubic yards each, so that’s about 310 trucks per day, 10 hours per day or about one truck every two minutes crossing the Wabasso causeway.  

Sand mine operators are reportedly bringing in a third dredging crew to process the additional material. This week is expected to be one of the most productive weeks of the project, so the county and barrier island residents will be watching the progress.  

To date, Ranger has not been working weekends -- presumably to minimize disruption to local residents and to avoid paying its workers overtime -- but those days may be over. If only weekdays are used from here on out, it would be virtually impossible to finish in time.  

“Although the contractor is still on a Monday through Friday schedule, we expect him to begin working weekends to catch up,” said county Public Works Director Chris Mora.

No work, except for the planting of shore-stabilizing vegetation using only lightweight vehicles, can be done after May 1 due to sea turtle nesting season.  

On the beach, approximately 5,500 linear feet of dune have been constructed of which 2,500 linear feet (nearly one half mile) of the dune plus berm fronting Sea Oaks have been completed and surveyed. The remaining 3,000 linear feet have not been fully constructed to date, Mora said, reflecting the latest progress report given to commissioners on Tuesday.  

The total length of beach in Phase One of the project is about three miles, from Golden Sands Park south to the northern end of John’s Island. Phase Two of the project from Treasure Shores Park south to Golden Sands will be undertaken this fall should the upland sand’s performance pass muster with regulators and sea turtle interests.  

For comparison’s sake, the county could have received permits to complete the project with pumped-in offshore sand as early as November, and with mobilization and construction time of about 45-60 days, the Midwestern- based dredge company could have completed the project in early January.  

But had the county gone with offshore sand and had it already in place, the recurring cold and stormy weather which started around Jan. 6 may have washed much of that sand away.  

Approximately $2 million in change orders to the original $7.3 million contract for the project were expected to be hammered out this week, but those, too have been delayed and should appear on the March 23 Board of County Commissioners agenda.  

All told, with the additional permitting and design work, monitoring, processing, testing and construction costs -- plus an additional 115,000 cubic yards of sand, the cost of the project is approaching $15 million.  

The county had budgeted only $13.1 million and is banking on a large portion being covered by state costsharing dollars, for which it has not yet applied. Those dollars are funded via documentary stamp revenues from real estate transactions and the disbursement of those funds is completely at the discretion of the state government.