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Beach debacle will see Phase Two end only half finished

(Week of April 21, 2011)

The latest phase of Indian River County’s controversial beach replenishment project has fallen badly behind schedule, and will not be complete by the time sea turtle breeding season puts an end to work until next fall.

County coastal engineer James Gray told the Beach and Shore Preservation Advisory Committee on Monday that, as of April 15, 137,000 cubic yards of sand has been placed in Phase Two of the North Beach sand project, which extends 14,000 feet along the shore from the Orchid Golf and Beach Club to Seaview in the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge.

He said the contractor, Ranger Construction, will deliver and install 1,670 more truckloads of sand by the end of April when workers must vacate the beaches to make way for turtles.

On that basis, county staff expects 160,000 out of 280,000 cubic feet of sand called for in project specifications to be installed when work stops. If that expectation is realized, the project will be 56 percent complete.

Gray presented an option for a third phase of the project to complete the work.

If approved and funded by the Board of County Commissioners at its May 3 meeting, the third phase would begin in November and be slated for completion by this December or in early 2012.

Installing the final 120,000 cubic feet of sand in a separate phase would add at least $60,000 to the project’s cost, according to Gray.

The extra money would be required for an additional year of monitoring the replenishment to see how well the sand stays in place.

The county is required to observe and report on sand movement for five years after installation and the delay would extend the mandatory observation period.

The county would also have to get an additional special use permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to do work in the refuge area.

Controversy about the county’s beach restoration efforts centers on the switch in 2009 from ocean sand to inland sand.

Up until the change was made, Great Lakes Dredge replenished local beaches by sucking sand from the ocean floor in specially designated “borrow areas” and placing it along the shore. When that method was in use, a project the size of the current uncompleted second phase took 45 to 60 days.

Using inland sand from the Ranch Road Lake Sand Mine, the project is now in its third year.

Due to the delay in completion, beaches in the community of Seaview will not be replenished this spring.

“Seaview has benefited from sand washing down along the shore from Sector 1 and 2 (a previous replenishment project), but buildings there will still be vulnerable,” Gray said.

The delay also means that Golden Sands and Treasure Shores parks will not be reopened until May 1, when work stops for the season.