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AM awaits DEP report on excess beach

By Rick Catlin, Islander Reporter

There were plenty of sunlovers to enjoy the new beach at the Anna Maria City Pier created with sand dredged from Bimini Bay in February. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection last week said the city received more sand than authorized, but it appears to have eroded from its original size. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

Investigators from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection are still working on finalizing the consequences for Anna Maria after determining the city had violated the terms of its Bimini Bay-Key Royale Canal dredging permit.

That permit, an extension of the city’s permit to dredge the Lake LaVista inlet, allowed the city to pump sand from the pass to the shoreline by the city pier. The permit allowed only enough sand to extend the shore out about 100 feet into Tampa Bay and south from the inlet by about 200 feet.

But following completion of the project, a DEP inspection team found the city had a beach by the pier going about 140 feet into Tampa Bay and extending south from the inlet approximately 530 feet.

DEP field services supervisor Ana Gibbs of Tampa said investigators informed the city of the violation March 23 when they met with Mayor Mike Selby and public works supervisor George McKay.

The DEP, however, has not yet established the amount of any fine, the amount of material to be removed from the pier beach or the preferred method of removal, Gibbs said.

The DEP investigating team suggested the city remove the excess sand at the pier beach and fill in an unauthorized channel in the bay at 643 Key Royale Drive, Holmes Beach, but has not made it an official order.

The team has to determine if a consent order is needed, Gibbs said.

A consent order essentially is an admission of guilt by the city and a formal order by the DEP to perform certain work to mitigate the offense. The city has asked the DEP not to issue a consent order, but rather to allow the city to correct the problem according to DEP instructions.

Mayor Mike Selby said he couldn’t begin to discuss the problem at a commission meeting until he has directions from the DEP to rectify the error. He has, however, met individually with commissioners to apprise them of the problem and to answer their resulting questions.

But those might be questions not yet answered by the DEP, Gibbs said.

“I don’t know when we’ll know the amount of any fine, but it will be a public record,” she said.

Sometimes incidents such as this one take the DEP several weeks or more to decide the best course of action.

But Gibbs said she and her department are monitoring the investigation and will inform the city as soon as it receives an official notice of corrective action and a consent order, if one is issued.

In the meantime, the pier beach may be losing sand, as McKay and West Coast Inland Navigation District consultant Sam Johnston said at the March 23 meeting.

An informal survey of the beach April 5 found the sand at high tide extended into Tampa Bay around 125 feet, and south from the inlet around 400 feet.

A similar informal survey of the pier beach in early March at high tide found the beach area extended approximately 150 feet into Tampa Bay and around 500 feet south from the Lake LaVista inlet.

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