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Meeting to sift dredging proposals

The existing Hernando Beach channel likely will be kept, engineers say. Thursday's meeting will give residents a chance to speak.

By JENNIFER FARRELL

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 13, 2000


HERNANDO BEACH -- Army Corps of Engineers officials will meet Thursday with a group of residents representing various community organizations to discuss the proposed dredging of the Hernando Beach channel.

Billed as a chance for stakeholders in the project to ask questions and voice concerns, the meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Hernando Beach recreation building on Shoal Line Boulevard.

Ten to 15 representatives from property owners, businesses, and marine and environmental groups are expected to attend.

Alberto Gonzalez, project manager for the corps, said the small forum is designed to allow a more focused discussion of the issues surrounding the dredging than was possible at a standing-room-only public meeting in April.

"We'll probably go over the the same things that we went over in the first public meeting," Gonzalez said.

Likely topics include the channel's alignment and depth.

After examining at least six different proposed routes, corps engineer Tracy Leeser said officials have all but decided to widen and deepen the existing channel rather than straighten it.

"We're pretty much going to go with that at this time," she said.

The $4-million project still is being considered as part of a detailed feasibility study.

Gonzalez said the next step is to determine how deep and wide to make the channel. The range so far is 7 to 9 feet deep and 80 to 85 feet wide, he said.

Drilling samples must be taken to help determine the cost of removing the sediment and what kind of equipment will be necessary for the project.

Gonzalez said there has been no decision made on what to do with the spoils.

If approved, dredging could begin by June 2002 and would last three to six months. The federal government would pay 80 percent of the cost of the dredging and the county will pay the rest.

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