County begins 2015 beach renourishment planning

Flush with $550,000 from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Manatee County natural resources director Charlie Hunsicker said the planning and design phase of the 2015 Islandwide beach renourishment project is under way.

The money will “get the ball rolling,” Hunsicker said, for Coastal Design and Engineering to begin surveying Anna Maria Island for “hot spots” that should be renourished.

Hunsicker and Coastal Planning engineers toured the Island Jan. 13, first examining locations renourished in the 2002 and 2006 renourishment projects. The team also looked at the artificial reef constructed in the Gulf of Mexico just off the south end of Coquina Beach to determine the progress of that aspect of the most recent beach renourishment project.

But $550,000 is just the beginning of what may eventually become a $20 million-plus renourishment project. The borrow area must be examined to determine if it’s feasible to accommodate the amount of sand planned for placement on the shore, along with the quality of the product.

There also will be costs for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit.

Manatee County has applied to the DEP for $800,000 from the 2012-13 state budget to continue the renourishment planning and design.

Hunsicker said it was too early to estimate how much sand would be needed, what areas would need renourishment, the cost of the project and how much would come from state and federal funding.

A major portion of the county resort tax — the 5 percent collected on any rental six months or less in the county — amounts to the county’s share of the beach renourishment cost.

Several years ago, Hunsicker designed an Islandwide renourishment plan that divided the Island into several different areas. Anna Maria was split into four sections, each with varying needs for renourishment.

Hunsicker then envisioned groins for the Tampa Bay beachfront from the tip of Bean Point south to the Rod & Reel Pier.

Residents in that area have complained for years that their beaches are eroding and they’ve had to fund countermeasures.

Those areas were previously ineligible for state or federal renourishment funding because the DEP had designated that shoreline as bayside. The DEP only funds oceanfront or Gulffront beach renourishment.

Several years ago, however, after several applications by Anna Maria officials and a study by Dr. Robert Dean of the University of Florida that concluded the area was affected by the Gulf of Mexico, the DEP changed the designation to Gulffront, making the area eligible for inclusion in beach renourishment.

The designation ends about 100 yards north of the Rod & Reel Pier.

In 2009, Hunsicker had said he hoped to begin the next Islandwide renourishment project in 2012-13, but had cautioned then that the time-line was only an estimate.

One issue that sidetracked Anna Maria from a full beach renourishment in 2002 was granting of easements.

Unlike the 2002 renourishment, when the Corps required easements in perpetuity from Gulffront property owners, Hunsicker has said the Corps will only require temporary easements for the 2015 project.

A number of Anna Maria Gulffront property owners declined to sign easements in 2002, which resulted in renourishment of only a .6 mile portion of Anna Maria beach from near the Sandbar Restaurant toward the south.

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One thought on “County begins 2015 beach renourishment planning

  1. Michelle

    Remember when our beaches were natural and not man-made? When they were sugary-soft and not strewn with ground shell and rocks that hurt to walk on? When they were pure white and not mixed with grayish sand?

    Every few years, we use industrial dredge equipment to suck up the living Gulf floor, including sea urchins, sand dollars, conchs, whelks, clams, star fish, and other sea life; and pump the whole dying mess onto our living shorelines.

    The sediment stirred up from this unnatural practice creates massive plumes of silt that stain the water for miles around. The end result of all this dredging, pumping, and bulldozing, is a wide, barren slab of coarse sand that washes away in a year or two anyway.

    I remember in the 1970s, many of our beaches were thin strips of the finest, softest sand you’d ever seen. Until the 1990s we had no dredging at all. Of course, today we call this destructive practice “renourishment,” and we continue to dupe tourists into thinking Anna Maria’s beaches are “natural!”

    Turning our beaches into spoil deposits is about as natural as the practice of using tractor equipment to sweep the beaches, removing sea grasses and other flotsam that one would naturally find on the shore. Why don’t we just pave our beaches and be done with this mess once and for all?

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