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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

'Critically eroded' Anna Maria to get sand in 2 to 3 years - possibly entire Island
Beach erosion bonus
Anna Maria Building Official Kevin Donohue monitored the storm surge and wave action during Hurricane Ivan's passage by the Island Sept. 15. The seriously eroded beach in Anna Maria along North Shore Drive is a large part of the reason why the entire Island could get another beach renourishment project within two to three years. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection last Friday declared Anna Maria beaches "critically eroded," clearing the way for immediate preparations for a beach renourishment project in that city, rather than the six to eight years previously expected for renourishment. The city's beaches could be renourished as early as 2006, financed largely by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

At the same time as the FEMA-backed Anna Maria project is going forward, said Manatee County Ecosystems Manager Charlie Hunsicker, he'll put together a similar project for the central and south sections of Island beaches. Funding for that project, however, will have to come from state and local sources, he said.

Hunsicker, along with Roland Adkins of FEMA, Phil Flood of the DEP, and coastal engineer Rick Spadoni of Coastal Planning and Engineering, met Friday with Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn to inspect eroded beaches in that city caused by the four recent hurricanes.

While Adkins and Flood agreed that the entire Island was "critically eroded," Adkins said FEMA can only provide emergency financial assistance to the Anna Maria renourishment project becauses some houses along North Shore Drive are in "immediate danger" of falling into the Gulf of Mexico.

But Hunsicker hopes to develop a similar renourishment project for Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach. Getting the two projects done at the same time would result in considerable cost savings and they are both needed. Funding for renourishment outside of the Anna Maria portion, however, would have to be developed without FEMA funds, he said.

Rather than another six- to eight-year wait for beach renourishment, Hunsicker and Spadoni will now begin preparations for beach renourishment that could begin in two to three years.

The best part is that FEMA will pay 75 percent of the cost of Anna Maria beach renourishment, the DEP 12.5 percent and Manatee County the remaining 12.5 percent, SueLynn said.

"The next step is that we need to begin the same processes that led to the 2002 beach renourishment," SueLynn said. It includes establishing easements and accesses, accounting for public parking and determining the location of the erosion control line.

And, said the mayor, property owners who declined to join the 2002 renourishment, or those who were prevented from renourishment because not enough owners in their particular area wanted to join, now have the opportunity to participate. That includes property owners at Bean Point, who declined to join the 2002 effort.

Hunsicker, Spadoni, the DEP and FEMA are going ahead "with all possible speed," SueLynn said.

The mayor said she had called Hunsicker last week to ask what could be done for the eroded beaches along North Shore Drive.

"He said he would get everybody together on the Island and see what they could come up with. Once they saw the erosion around the Island, Hunsicker said all the Island beaches should be renourished at the same time."

"Unfortunately, only the Anna Maria beaches qualify for federal emergency disaster funds, but we're going ahead with planning for renourishment around the Island. It just makes sense and will save everyone a lot of money. We'll find the funds somewhere, he said. "

In another surprise, FEMA declared that two locations in Anna Maria were immediately eligible for emergency construction of sand berms to save the houses there from being washed into the sea. SueLynn said FEMA would pay 75 percent of the cost while the city or the property owners would have to pay the remainder.

Property owners Hank Varnum and Joe Chiles have already agreed to pay their share, the mayor said, and FEMA and Hunsicker will begin preparations for that construction immediately.

But don't expect to see sand flowing within the next few months, said Spadoni. Slow down a minute. There's a long way to go before any dredging and renourishment begins.

"We've got to give FEMA a report on how much sand was lost in Anna Maria, then try to put together two separate projects, but somehow combine them to be done at the same time. It's not going to be easy. We've got to involve all three Island cities, Manatee County and, hopefully, some state funding. It's going to be one to three years before we're ready. That's still a long way off."

Lake LaVista
SueLynn also noted that Hurricane Jeanne nearly filled in the mouth of the Lake LaVista inlet. The water is currently only ankle deep and boats can't get in or out. Under her emergency powers, she'll begin the process to have a company come out and remove the sand as soon as possible. She was hopeful the work could start by Oct. 13.

City commissioners will hold a special meeting at 6 p.m. Oct. 7 to approve an emergency contract for removal of the excess sand at Lake LaVista.