BREVARD COUNTY, FLA. - Brevard County commissioners Tuesday approved $8.4 million worth of projects to restore two stretches of county beaches and dunes.
Those areas were damaged by the winds and waves associated with Hurricane Irma a week ago and by Hurricane Matthew last October.
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Most of the money to pay for the projects will come from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Florida Department of Emergency Management, News 6 partner Florida Today reported.
About $1.05 million will come from the county, using money generated by Brevard County's 5 percent Tourist Development Tax on hotel rooms and other short-term rentals; 25 percent of revenue from the hotel tax is designated for beach improvements.
"It's the homes that are threatened. It's the sea turtles. It's the environment," Brevard County spokesperson Don Walker told News 6 on Wednesday.
Walker said replacing sand is imperative to protect oceanfront homes such as Franco Massacessi's in Satellite Beach.
"When a hurricane comes, you don't want to live here," Massacessi told News 6. "You realize the erosion of the beach and it's really painful. It's really sad," added the native Argentinian who has lived in Satellite Beach for two years.
"Erosion damage by the storm was significant," Brevard County Natural Resources Management Department Director Virginia Barker said, referring to Hurricane Irma.
"The beaches are very vulnerable right now," Barker said, with 12- to 14-foot cliffs in the dunes"closer than is comfortable for many structures out there."
Barker added that "there's a lineup of events out there in the ocean," in terms of hurricanes and tropical storms, that could further affect Brevard's beaches.
"We don't know what's right around the corner," Barker said.
Additionally, some of the highest high tides of the year will occur from now through November, Barker said.
The work commissioners approved will focus on two areas:
• The south beaches area, a 12-mile length of shoreline extending south from Spessard Holland Park to Sebastian Inlet State Park.
In that area, about 67,000 cubic yards of material was eroded from the engineered dunes during Irma. It will cost about $2.5 million to repair damage there, including sand, sea oats, permitting and engineering.
The county's share of the south beaches work will be about $313,000.
• The mid reach area, a 7.6-mile stretch going from immediately south of Patrick Air Force Base to Flug Avenue in Indialantic.
In that area, about 36,000 cubic yards of sand was eroded from the engineered dune during Irma, with an estimated replacement cost of $1.3 million.
That's in addition to about 125,000 cubic yards lost in the mid reach area during Hurricane Matthew last year that has yet to be replaced. That will cost about $4.6 million.
The county's share of the mid reach work will be about $738,000.
Barker said the projects must be completed by April 30, before the May 1 start of the main turtle-nesting season.
County commissioners voted 3-2 to authorize county staff to negotiate a change order with the county's current beach renourishment contractor, J.P. Donovan Construction, to do the new work.
Voting in favor of that approach were Chairman Curt Smith, Vice Chair Rita Pritchett and Commissioner Jim Barfield.
Voting against were commissioners Kristine Isnardi and John Tobia. They favored putting the project out to bid for two weeks. That would delay the project award and the start of construction.
Commissioners supporting using Donovan said they were worried that, the longer the county delayed in reaching a deal with a contractor, the higher the price could go.
That's because of higher demand for this type of work from counties throughout the state that have a similar need after Irma. Additionally, there could be a shortage of available sand from the borrow pits producing and processing the material that is used for this purpose.
Barker said the sand needs to be of a high quality for "the world-class turtle-nesting beaches that we have."
Mike McGarry, the county's beach management coordinator, said the sand needs to have specific grain size and sediment content to meet environmental permit requirements.
"We need to get out there first, before our neighboring communities are competing for that same sand," Barker said.
"Sand is a very hot commodity during these times because everybody is after it," Pritchett said. "Time is of a great value to us."
"The sand production — which is the critical link in the project — could begin immediately," under the plan the majority of commissioners approved, McGarry said.
"The price is likely to go up with competition," McGarry said. "And there is not an unlimited supply of upland sand. There may not be enough once adjacent communities start to compete. Or, if there is enough, it'll require 24-hour production, which makes the price go up. So it's not a readily available product."
Smith said "you roll the dice" by waiting another two weeks to get the project going.
"Competition increases price," Smith said. "It's the law of supply and demand."
Barker said Brevard might have to go as far south as a borrow pit in Fort Pierce for some of the sand supplies for this project.
Isnardi, however, said she was "not comfortable not going out to bid on this," since this is a big contract, and there is a possibility that other companies could offer a lower price.
"I'd rather take the risk of going out to bid, and possibly coming in cheaper," Isnardi said.
The price for beach renourishment can vary significantly, according to McGarry.
Over the last 17 years, the county has paid as little as $23.50 per cubic yard and as much as $49 per cubic yard for this work, McGarry said. The county's current contract is at $28.80 per cubic yard.
"After storm events, the bid prices are typically higher because there is more demand," McGarry said.
Generally, McGarry said, the county received four or five bids on beach renourishment work.
Barker said the sand previously placed in these beach areas "did a spectacular job of providing storm protection," with very little structural damage to the beach crossovers.
"The beach projects performed as designed, and protected all upland structures from direct damage by7 the ocean," Barker said.
Barker said she is comfortable working with Donovan, based on the company's track record of staying within budget, and completing the work within the agreed-upon time frame.
"We know he's capable," Barker said.
Any needed beach restoration work along two other stretches of county beach will be arranged through the county's cooperative agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
These areas are:
• The North Reach, which stretches 9.4 miles from Jetty Park in Port Canaveral south to the northern limit of Patrick Air Force Base. Beach damage there is estimated at $4 million.
• The South Reach, which stretches 3.8 miles from Flug Avenue in Indialantic south to Spessard Holland Park in Melbourne Beach. Beach damage there is estimated at $3.2 million.
Massacessi told News 6 he wants to see a more permanent solution from the county to beach erosion. He advocated building a seawall.
"The government is going to put sand (that')s going to be gone in the next hurricane," he said.
"Maybe a wall, a concrete wall. For every family on the coast, it's going to be a relief knowing your backyard is going to be there," the coastal resident added.
"We can't just let it wash off into the ocean and not replace it," said Walker, giving the county's opinion.
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