NEW PORT RICHEY — What’s the going rate for a hydrographic-bathymetric survey, geotechnical analysis, and environmental impact analysis for a channel-dredging project?
Pasco County’s Restore Act Advisory Committee is hoping $100,000 will cover it. County Public Works officials aren’t so confident.
The Restore Act Committee, headed by County Commissioner Jack Mariano, recently set aside $100,000 for the survey work needed to determine the cost of dredging three channels in Gulf Harbors and four at Hudson Beach. A report by Public Works concludes that amount is likely short of what’s needed.
“Finally, the amount set aside for engineering work for the dredging project is $100,000. The amount appears to be inadequate, since $264,845 was spent just for the Hudson channel dredging in 2005,” the report reads.
The county is working from “Pot 1” of Restore Act funds, which is settlement money from a trust set up by the federal government using fines collected from British Petroleum for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. The money is paid out in installments and can be used for various projects related to wildlife, marine and other projects related to the Gulf of Mexico.
“This is a very early stage of the project,” said Tambrey Laine, Pasco County public information officer. Laine noted that the Public Works Department is working on hiring engineering consultants to do the detailed analysis needed to project the cost of the dredging.
The dredging projects are needed to remove silt and sand that has filled the channels, making it difficult for boats to navigate through shallow sections. The problem is worse around low tide, said Skip Geiger, a Gulf Harbors resident, boater and public information director for the Gulf Harbors Civic Association.
Years ago, Geiger said, he had no trouble moving his sail boat through the Gulf Harbors channels, as even on low tide there was 5 feet of water to work with.
“Now you have to wait for high tide,” he said. “We used to have at least 5 feet at low tide, now it’s two-and-a-half feet in some areas.”
A former employee with a dredging firm, Geiger said he knows what’s involved in such projects and he’s anxious to get on with the detailed engineering to get “realistic” cost projections. A preliminary engineering report by Dewberry, the engineering firm that did a cursory analysis in 2017, put the Gulf Harbors dredging at $3.7 to $6.1 million, which in Geiger’s mind are high — by a lot.
“That’s insane; not even close,” he said.
Geiger said the dredging project proposed for Gulf Harbors is to return the north and south channels in the Gulf to their original dredged depth, and no more. The same criteria would be applied to the channel that runs from the Gulf Harbors Yacht Club north into Gulf Harbors Sea Forest.
“We need to know what we’re talking about and how much dirt has to be removed,” said Geiger, who added that the proposed detailed engineering report will determine that.
From there, cost estimates can be calculated. The analysis done by Public Works compared historical costs per cubic yard of material removed in several Gulf projects. It showed costs ranged from $20 to $103. The highest figure was for the Hudson Channel dredging project, in 2005. The lowest was for dredging work still being done at Clearwater Pass.
Engineering, permitting and mitigation fees must be added to the per cubic yard estimates to come up with a total. With all costs included, the 2005 Hudson project came in at $199 per cubic yard, according the county analysis.