The day dock next to the Bradenton Beach Historic Bridge Street Pier has been closed for months due to wave damage. Commissioners now have approved a plan for repairs to be submitted to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Islander Photo: Mark Young
Bradenton Beach commissioners approved a final plan Sept. 12 to go to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for repairs to the day dock next to the Historic Bridge Street Pier.
The dock has remained closed for months due to maintenance issues caused by wave action and blamed on a manufacturer’s design flaw in the hinges that hold the dock sections together.
In June, Tropical Storm Debby ensured the dock’s closure as rough Sarasota Bay waters made temporary “Band-Aid” repairs impossible, according to public works director Tom Woodard.
Commissioners learned Aug. 24 that FEMA would likely fund 75 percent of the cost to repair the dock. Details on how to approach those repairs were ongoing, as commissioners and city staff discussed the dock’s future.
FEMA will typically only fund a project to restore a structure to its original design, but because FEMA engineers have acknowledged the dock’s design flaw, they approved moving forward with an alternate plan.
The cost to repair the dock is about $120,000 with an additional $41,000 to fix the design flaw. FEMA has approved 75 percent of the $120,000, with the city picking up the remaining cost.
Commissioners had eyed the possibility of reducing the dock’s size from nine sections to four or five because the remaining sections were thought to be beyond repair.
In August, Bradenton Beach Police Lt. John Cosby said if the city still wanted to reduce the dock size, the FEMA reimbursement would pay for the repairs and fix the design flaw without cost to the city.
Cosby said Sept. 12, at a one-agenda item commission meeting at city hall to address the day dock, the city had to approve the mitigated repair plan with an understanding that it was likely a permanent solution.
“You already voted that you want to reduce the dock, but FEMA has thrown in a monkey wrench,” said Cosby. “Once we remove the three sections, they can’t be put back in for five years unless the reason is an act of Mother Nature.”
Cosby said he didn’t believe replacing the removed sections was part of the city’s plan, but FEMA wanted city commissioners to take action by stating they understood the requirements.
“Anything we receive from FEMA is considered a grant, and a grant is good for five years,” said Cosby. “Another catch is that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is not going to give us another permit for those removed sections.”
Cosby said once they are gone as part of the city’s plan, they cannot be replaced as part of a new plan, where replacement sections will block the sun from hitting the bottom of the bay, inhibiting seagrass growth.
Cosby said commissioners need to know that if the plan is to remove those sections to reduce the dock size, “they are gone for good.”
The fact that FEMA was even considering reimbursing the city for repairs to the day dock, as well as the dingy dock near the BridgeTender Restaurant, came as a surprise to city staff after TS Debby.
Cosby said the city has always been told a structure over water would not be considered by FEMA.
“But the reason why FEMA is covering this is because we have never had a claim before, so it’s not being looked at as a repetitive action,” he said.
Cosby said he needed another motion from the commissioners to move forward with the plan to reduce the dock’s size with an understanding that the dock cannot be changed for five years from FEMA’s perspective, and that it is likely permanent from DEP’s perspective.
Mayor John Shaughnessy wanted to know if the costs approved by FEMA covered the removal of the four or five sections of dock.
Cosby said no, but he expects the city’s public works department to find a way to include those costs into its operating budget.
“We won’t need a crane to remove those sections,” said Cosby. “We think we can float them around to the marina and public works can use their lift to get them out of the water. After we break them down, we’ll recycle the materials that can be recycled and there is a possibility another entity might want the sections to use as an artificial reef.”
Commissioner Ed Straight motioned to approve the final plan to be submitted to FEMA. Commissioner Ric Gatehouse seconded the motion, which passed 3-0. Commissioners Jan Vosburgh and Gay Breuler were not present.