Officials are frustrated that DEP sand-quality requirements ruled out less expensive sand.
Flagler County is preparing to buy sand for its eroded beach dunes at a cost of $23 per ton of sand. But it's not entirely confident in its purchase.
At a County Commission meeting Dec. 18, the commission approved a bid award to Vulcan Construction Materials to provide sand — 638,812 tons of it — that will be added to the dunes. The approval authorizes the county to execute a contract. Another bidder, S. E. Cline Construction, offered the county sand for much less — $10 per ton. But because S.E. Cline's sand sampled didn't all meet Department of Environmental Protection requirements for sand quality, the county couldn't buy S.E. Cline's sand without endangering grants that the county needs to complete the project.
"We have an opportunity here to save a significant amount of money," said County Commissioner Nate McLaughlin, who ultimately voted against the $23 per ton bid from Vulcan. McLaughlin noted that another storm could remove the sand the county adds to the beach, so it makes sense not to spend too much. He voted against the bid, saying he did so "in protest" of the process that pushed the county to incur the higher cost.
County Commissioner Greg Hansen said that he'd spoken with DEP officials and mentioned that on Flagler County's beaches, the sand that beachgoers see — that top, cinnamon-colored layer —is different from the sand just beneath it, which is different from the sand a few inches below that. So, he asked, how could DEP set requirements mandating one kind of sand? He didn't get a satisfactory answer.
But the county is trying to get the project started before hurricane season and sea turtle nesting season would impede it, and waiting in order to contest the DEP requirements could cause problems with that timeline, County Administrator Craig Coffey said.
"From Flagler County's standpoint, the whole regulatory framework is in need of an overhaul," Coffey said. "We’re a smalll fish, and that’s a mountain to move. I think that's going to take changes to the Florida administrative code." The DEP requirements, he said, required sand that was "too perfect."
"They want it manufacturer quality," he said.
Hansen said he'd vote in favor of the $23 sand, but suggested county staff return to DEP and ask officials again about the $10 sand. "The only thing that I see as a potential remedy is to go back to DEP and say, ‘Are you sure.’"
The County Commission approved the Vulcan Construction Materials bid 3-1, with McLaughlin dissenting. County Commissioner Donald O'Brien was absent.