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Island beach renourishment in federal budget

By Rick Catlin, Islander Reporter

The good news for Anna Maria Island’s planned 2014-15 islandwide beach renourishment project is that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has placed the project in its section of the federal budget, said Charlie Hunsicker, director of Manatee County’s natural resources department.

Additionally, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has placed AMI beach renourishment as its “No. 1 project,” Hunsicker said, and the county has secured funding support from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“It’s one of the Top 5 Corps projects” in the federal budget for the Corps’ Jacksonville district office, he added.

“I believe the Board of County Commissioners has positioned the project well” with the Corps and DEP.

As with any federal budget, however, it sometimes sees cuts.

“We have to be sure we still have full support in 2014. Partial funding for beach renourishment is like no funding,” Hunsicker said.

He and Coastal Planning and Engineering of Boca Raton, the marine engineering firm retained by the county for beach renourishment and dredging projects, have estimated the project cost to be $20 million-$25 million, with the USACE share at $13 million and $6 million from both the DEP and Manatee County’s beach renourishment fund.

Hunsicker said he and county commissioners have lined up support for full funding, as he believes the federal funds will eventually be challenged.

He’s obtained the backing of U.S. Senators Mark Rubio, R-Fla., and Bill Nelson, D-Fla., along with U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, to support the budget funding.

“Getting (funding for beach renourishment) put in the budget was accomplishing the impossible,” Hunsicker said, and the budget estimates were on the high side for a reason, which also is part of the bad news.

“Now (Congress) can only subtract” from the amount budgeted, Hunsicker said, and he still plans a 2014 start date for the project.

Hunsicker also spoke Feb. 14 with Longboat Key town officials and residents about the joint Longboat Pass management plan. He presented suggestions from a West Coast Inland Navigation District study of the pass along with those from a Coastal Planning and Engineering study. CP&E is Manatee County’s consultant for marine and dredging projects.

There were several options to make it easier to keep the pass open for safe navigation without dredging it every year.

Those options include realigning the authorized channel, using sand from navigation dredging for beach renourishment, modifying dredging to address shoaling problems along the north end of Longboat Key, managing erosion “hot spots” with renourishment, structures such as groins, and adding more sand along the existing jetty at the south end of Coquina Beach/Anna Maria Island to tighten the structure and/or add to its length.

There also was discussion of building a terminal groin on the Longboat Key side of the pass. Another option discussed was to build a breakwater in the Gulf of Mexico, or build permeable, adjustable groins from north Longboat Key into the Gulf of Mexico.

Hunsicker presented computer models showing that the tidal flow through Longboat Pass moves to the south, where the permeable, adjustable groins would be installed.

The final recommendations of the various studies of the pass resulted in a CP&E report stating a combination of alternatives are needed to achieve the objectives of an inlet management plan.

The best objectives and options are:

• Tighten and extend the terminal groin at the south end of Coquina Beach.

• Build a Longboat Key terminal groin.

• Place two permeable adjustable groins on Longboat Key.

• Maintain the navigation channel in its authorized position with advanced maintenance.

• Share dredged sand.

The group agreed, concluding the meeting with Longboat Key officials planning to present the options to its town commission for approval, while Hunsicker will present the same to the Manatee County Commission for approval at its March 13 meeting.

The cost of the project would be evenly split by Longboat Key and Manatee County, Hunsicker said.

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