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Beach renourishment to begin

By Lisa Neff, Islander Reporter

Coquina Beach, much narrower than it was just last year, is due for sand renourishment this spring. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff

A countdown is under way for Coquina Beach, where a county-directed project to add sand to the shoreline will begin March 1.

Manatee County natural resources director Charlie Hunsicker briefed Bradenton Beach commissioners Feb. 17 on the renourishment project.

He also reviewed other short-term and long-term plans to deal with the “net loss of sand each and every year” from Anna Maria Island beaches.

On March 1, Hunsicker said Great Lakes Dock and Dredge of Chicago will begin pumping sand from Tampa Bay to a small section of beach in Anna Maria and longer stretches of Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach.

The work, estimated to cost $6.9 million, should be completed by May 1, the official start date for the turtle-nesting season, when beaches, by law, must be clear of hazards and obstacles.

Hunsicker, who earlier this year briefed Anna Maria commissioners on renourishment plans, said this year’s project will not require pipes to run long lengths on the beaches.

“We’ll place a pipeline on the sea floor” to get the sand from the north end of the Island to the south end, he said.

Hunsicker also touted the quality of the sand — good consistency, without lots of shells, from southern Tampa Bay off the northern tip of the Island.

Renourishment in Anna Maria will replace sand lost during the 2004 storm season and is deemed a Federal Emergency Management Agency project.

The county is “piggybacking” on the federal project to add sand to two long, severely eroded sections of Coquina Beach.

A map of Coquina shows a gap in the renourishment project because of the existence of a sensitive, nearshore reef. The beach at that spot will be built up landward of the water line, but no sand will be added to cover the rocky reef.

Because the Coquina project does involve some rock coverage elsewhere near the shore, the county will build an offshore 8-acre artificial reef to the north of Cortez Beach.

Another plan for shoreline protection at Coquina, as well as tool to improve conditions at Longboat Pass, involves the reconstruction of the jetty on the south end of the beach at the pass.

“It’s showing its age,” Hunsicker said of the structure, built circa 1963. “I suspect we’ve been blessed not having a real aggressive storm. It’s holding its own by its own weight.… But sand flows through. That shouldn’t be happening.”

Reconstruction could cost as much as $3 million, Hunsicker said, and is a long-term goal. Before plans are drawn for a new jetty, a test will be performed on the old jetty. Geotubes — think of super-sized socks filled with sand — will be installed to keep sand from washing down from Coquina Beach into the pass.

“We’ll lay those on the north side of the jetty,” Hunsicker said. “The tubes last four to five years.”

The test will determine the type of jetty needed at the location.

As Hunsicker concluded his report, the mayor and commissioners inquired about the fate of an Islandwide renourishment project planned for 2014-15.

Hunsicker said there are questions about federal and state funding. However, he emphasized, the AMI project is ranked fourth out of about 60 on a state priority list and is at No. 6 on a federal list for Florida.

“We can never predicate how much money will be available, “Hunsicker said. “But we are positioned in the best possible way should money become available.”

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