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After long wait, more sand coming to Vero beaches


A decade after Vero Beach residents and businesses were told their critically eroded beaches were next on the list for replenishment, the city’s oceanfront may finally start getting the promised $4 million sand dump in November.

That means more than 11,000 heavy dump trucks staging along A1A and Ocean Drive during the height of the 2019-2020 season.

The project was supposed to begin last fall, and a great many things could postpone the start date again – the biggest unknown being $2 million in state funding that may not materialize.

But if all goes well, the county will have the final permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in hand by the end of February and will approve a final sand source, obtain construction easements and surveys, and put the project out to bid in July.

By August the county commission is expected to award the job to a contractor, who would be ready to mobilize on Nov. 1 at the end of sea turtle nesting season.

“These are only estimated dates,” County Administrator Jason Brown said last week upon providing the timeline to Vero Beach 32963. “Lack of state funding could potentially impact the projected timeline as well.”

Vero’s beaches are some of the most eroded in the county, but as the result of a 20-year-old referendum prohibiting the city from spending tax dollars on engineered beach projects, Vero had been forced to wait on repairs, at the mercy of Indian River County and fickle state funding.

Vero is allowed to shore up its dunes in an emergency situation, and the city has spent more than a quarter million dollars in recent years to ensure its boardwalks don’t tumble into the ocean.

“The highest levels of erosion or damage from the past two hurricanes has been the southern portion of the Jaycee/Conn Beach boardwalk,” said County Public Works Director Rich Szpyrka

But the county’s planned project is far broader.  It would truck in an estimated 200,000 cubic yards of processed sand from sand mines in dump trucks to stabilize the city’s 3.1-mile shoreline from Tracking Station Beach in the north to Castaway Cove in the south.

This endeavor will take months, and it will move from staging point to staging point up and down A1A and Ocean Drive. All equipment must be off the beaches by April 1, 2020 when the earliest-nesting species of turtles returns.

“As always, we will try to limit the impact to the public, but we need to complete the project and we have a limited time frame in which to do so,” Szpyrka said.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Feb. 1 permit authorization letter lists Tracking Station Park, Jaycee Park, Conn Beach and Humiston Park as the main staging areas.

County Szpyrka said the timing of any beach closures would be determined by the contractor. When Wabasso Beach was closed for beach replenishment, some businesses were caught off guard, while others like Disney’s Vero Beach Resort were notified of the timing of the work.

“I can’t speak to prior circumstances. For all of our beach projects, we plan to notify everyone within each sector at the time we advertise for bid. This will give them about three months’ notice,” Szpyrka said.

Scott Varricchio, owner of Citrus Grillhouse at Humiston Park, said he’s all for the shoring up of Vero’s beaches if it’s good for the economy, but that he would appreciate a courtesy heads-up.

“I would like to be able to notify my customers, not to say they shouldn’t come, but to let them know if they were having a special event or a rehearsal dinner or a Christmas party, that the beach would be under construction,” Varricchio said, adding that he would also need to possibly redirect his front-curb supply deliveries to the restaurant if dump trucks are using that area of the parking lot for staging.

“We have to get trucks in there, too,” he said. “But it doesn’t affect me as much as it does the hotels and some of the other businesses.”

Vero City Manager Jim O’Connor said city officials, after his March 15 departure, would try to keep Ocean Drive hotels and businesses informed as well. “The issue there is that we’re not always kept in the loop,” O’Connor said.