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Date of Issue: June 16, 2010

County puts off pier replacement

When the Manatee Public Beach pier was demolished earlier this year, Manatee county commissioners said it would be replaced.

But economic hardships and a lack of storms since the pier was removed led county natural resource department director Charlie Hunsicker to postpone the pier in the county’s five-year capital improvements plan released at a June 6 budget meeting.

Hunsicker said in order for the new pier to be funded from tourism money, it must help curtail beach erosion, but the lack of storms since the pier was demolished has not allowed the county to test the extent of erosion.

The county is in the process of obtaining a permit for a 23-foot-wide, 300-foot-long pier without railings. But county attorneys were concerned about no railings because of possible law suits if someone were injured after diving off the pier.

And if the county determines a pier would be built only for recreational purposes, a separate funding source must be found.

Former Holmes Beach mayor and County Commissioner Carol Whitmore was not pleased with the lack of funding for the pier, although she was in favor of a low-profile pier that she said would fit in with Anna Maria Island’s character.

A T-end 312-foot pier was preferred by a majority of Holmes Beach city commissioners.

County Commission Chair Donna Hayes does not think a pier would affect tourism. “I don’t think people pull out their travel plans and see if a certain beach has a pier,” she said at the meeting.

County Commissioner Joe McClash and Hunsicker also think the pier would be a safety hazard because fishing would take place in a swimming area.

For economic purposes, Hunsicker said funds from state and federal grants, as well as tourist development taxes, should be spent on beach renourishment needed to protect public infrastructure and recreational values.

One of the plan’s projects would be a renourishment of 1.6 miles on Coquina Beach, .5 miles on Anna Maria beaches and construction of six acres of an artificial mitigation rock reef off Anna Maria Island. The project will be financed with $13,000 in funds.

Another project, financed with $16,000 in funds, would renourish about 9 miles of beaches from Anna Maria to Coquina Beach and reconstruct the Longboat Pass jetty.

This beach renourishment would begin January 2011.

The plan also calls for replacement of two erosion-control groins at Coquina Beach and one at Longboat Pass.

County administrator Ed Hunzeker reminded those attending the meeting how fickle a five-year plan can be.

“The plan could change at any old board meeting,” Hunzeker said. “The only thing we know for certain is that we’re probably wrong.”