Martin County, Jupiter Island officials met for mediation over dredging dispute

MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. - Sand is big business in Martin County.  However, for people who live in the highly affluent community of Jupiter Island it can make or break their property values.

It's also at the center of a debate that has raged for years between the county and the town which could end with a lawsuit.

On Wednesday, county and town officials met for mediation. The two sides are at odds over the dredging of the St. Lucie inlet.

"It provides millions of dollars in jobs, marine-related jobs so it has a huge impact on our economy," says Martin County spokesperson Gabriella Ferraro.

The dredging is suppose to be done every three years by Martin County.  But Jupiter Island says the county isn't doing it regularly.

"The county hasn’t followed that inlet management plan," says town attorney Thomas Baird.

The dredging disagreement spans nearly 20 years.

"Right now the discussion involves the quantity and the placement of that sand," says Ferraro.

Jupiter Island says sand has been lost because the county has mismanaged the dredging.  Baird says the town's 600 residents have had to pay millions over the years to replenish the beaches.

"Jupiter Island’s beaches have eroded to the point where as I stated they have to incur costs to the tune of 40% of their budget," says Baird.

Martin County says it's following the rules but Jupiter Island isn't satisfied. The town is now threatening to sue to gain some control over inlet dredging.

"We do not want to be involved in litigation," says Baird.

There was no resolution at Wednesday's meeting. The two sides will meet again.  Martin County wants an agreement soon because it says it could impact funding and permits.

"We’re talking about a half million dollars if these delays continue," says Ferraro.