New total still lower than original amount in FDEP filings
(Editor’s note: This article was updated mid-afternoon on Jan. 10 to include new comments from a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman.)
Just after 11:30 a.m. EST on Jan. 8, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) issued an amendment to its solicitation package for the Lido Key Hurricane and Storm Damage Reduction Project. That document included a higher amount of sand to be placed on about 1.6 miles of South Lido Key Beach.
The original solicitation package — published on Dec. 17, 2019 — called for 590,000 cubic yards of sand from Big Sarasota Pass. That was about a 38% reduction from the original plan for 950,000 cubic yards noted in documents the USACE had filed with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). The Jan. 8 addendum raises the figure to 710,000 cubic yards, which would be close to 75% of the original amount.
The addendum includes a revised engineering drawing, as well, showing the specifications for the beach fill and the southern project limits. A Sarasota News Leader comparison of the engineering drawing in the Dec. 17, 2019 package and the revised version found that the seaward edge of the flat beach berm has been extended 65 feet seaward of the construction baseline (CBL), instead of 50 feet, on a more southern section of the project.
After the original solicitation was published, the News Leader was unable to reach a USACE spokesman before the holidays to ask about the reduction in the beach fill to 590,000 cubic yards.
This week, the News Leader was able to pose that question to Trisston Brown, chief of the Florida Projects Section for the Water Resources Branch of the USACE in Jacksonville. He responded in a Jan. 6 email: “We had our engineers take a long hard look at the project and they were able to obtain more recent erosion data. Using recent erosion data, it was determined that the project objectives could be met with less sand volume.”
He also explained that that was the reason Borrow Area B in Big Pass was eliminated as a sand source. That left the USACE with two borrow areas — or cuts — D and C, though the federal agency last spring removed the northern portion of C from its first solicitation package. In June, Brown provided the following reasons for that decision:
“1) [T]he available volume is relatively small and the cut depth is relatively thin compared to other borrow areas to be dredged;
“2) [A] portion of Borrow Area C is unavailable due to a no-dredge buffer around water mains and an electric cable that cross the inlet;
“3) [S]parse seagrasses exist adjacent to the dredge area with the potential to be impacted; and
“4) [T]he sand in the other borrow areas is slightly more compatible with the existing beach.”
When the News Leader asked the USACE for comments on the change in the beach fill figure, agency spokesman David Ruderman in Jacksonville wrote the following in a Jan. 10 email: “In the original version of the solicitation, the gentleman inadvertently published an earlier, draft version of the cubic yardage of fill to be deposited … so this update corrects that mistake …”
The News Leader also contacted City of Sarasota Engineer Alexandrea DavisShaw on Jan. 9, as the city was the co-applicant with the USACE for the FDEP permit for the Lido initiative. In a Jan. 9 email, she wrote, “I talked to the Corps a day or two ago and they told me this change was happening but did not tell me why the figure was changed.”
In early August, the USACE cancelled its first solicitation for the Lido project, citing the fact that the only two bids it received were “unreasonably high.” While the USACE had estimated the cost of the project at $14,149,000, the lower bid was $22,135,100. The higher offer was $27,195,725.
In December 2019, Brown explained that the USACE took a different approach with the new solicitation package. The agency combined the Lido project with beach renourishment initiatives for Anna Maria Island in Manatee County,
“The goal is to give bidders flexibility with scheduling their assets and obtain more competitive bids for both projects since they are reasonably close together,” Brown noted in a Dec. 17, 2019 email.
The new solicitation says, “Magnitude of construction is between $10,000,000 and $25,000,000.”
A second change the News Leader found in the addendum to the new solicitation updates the due date for bids. The federal government website where the solicitation has been advertised originally said offers “to perform the work required” were due by Jan. 23. The Jan. 8 addendum says they are due electronically by 2 p.m. on Feb. 13 to the USACE’s Jacksonville Contracting Division.
Asked about the extension of the due date for the bids, USACE spokesman Ruderman explained that that change was part of the effort to draw companies because of the potential to undertake two beach renourishment initiatives that were geographically close together, instead of just handling the project on Lido.
Additionally, instead of bidders allowing the federal government 60 days to accept an offer, the addendum cuts that in half, to 30 days.
As in the package published on Dec. 17, 2019, the USACE says, “The Contractor shall begin performance within 75 calendar days and complete it by 1 May 2021 after receiving notice to proceed. This performance period is mandatory.”