Posted October 11, 2018
The county's long-sought dredging of the Eastpoint Channel could begin as early as next summer, if a series of steps fall into place regarding RESTORE Act monies and an Army Corps of Engineering redesign of the project.
In a lengthy report to county commissioners Tuesday morning, former County Planner Alan Pierce, now the county's liaison for securing monies stemming from the 2010 BP oil spill, sounded an optimistic note regarding the dredging, a project the county sought, unsuccessfully, to secure funds for over at least the past two decades.
He said a meeting last week with Waylon Register, site manager for the Corps out of the Panama City office, reaffirmed the Corps has received $2 million in the upcoming year to dredge the channel, for which it holds the permit to dredge and dispose of materials on the water side of the breakwater.
Costs for the project, however, are expected to be higher, because of problems associated with the current design to have the disposal area surrounded by geo tubes to hold in the spoil, and then planted as if it is a marsh environment.
"I think that's a bigger public interest right now," he said. "I hope in December we hear a more complete report from the Corps."
Pierce said that if the Corps tells the county that it is ready to start dredging the Eastpoint Channel in 2019, the county could delay the construction of the emergency operations center and use that $1 million to keep the Eastpoint Channel moving forward.
"We don't have a bunch of money to be putting out for stuff," said Chairman Smokey Parrish.
Pierce said the RESTORE monies, once earmarked for the project, could quickly reimburse the county.
"It will be April or May before we see anything," said Commissioner Cheryl Sanders, a longstanding representative of the county with the Gulf Consortium, the body of Florida's 23 Gulf Coast counties, from Escambia County to Monroe County, tasked with overseeing expenditures of RESTORE Act monies.
"The larger counties are ready to get out there. We're at a critical time for this in the county," said Sanders, who is retiring from her seat on the county commission, ahead of the upcoming consortium meeting at the end of November in Hillsborough County.
Sanders pledged her support to brief the commissioners on the consortium's work. "We can't miss none of those meetings," she said.