Manatee County Natural Resources Department director Charlie Hunsicker held a beach and dune restoration update May 20 at Holmes Beach City Hall, but only about 10 people attended to learn about the projects and what they can do to prevent sand erosion and promote dune growth. About half the attendees were elected or appointed city officials.
Hunsicker said renourishment projects are set to begin in September.
The first phase is what Hunsicker called the central zone, which extends from the Anna Maria city limit to Coquina Beach. Bids for the project are expected by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers this summer, Hunsicker said.
Phase 2 will come immediately after Phase 1 and involve renourishing Coquina Beach.
By piggybacking the projects, Manatee County, the state of Florida and the federal government will save about $2 million in mobilization costs, Hunsicker said.
Phase 2 was not scheduled to begin until 2014-15, but Hunsicker convinced the Corps it made sense to save money and do both phases consecutively.
Tom Pierro of Coastal Planning and Engineering also spoke at the meeting about beach erosion, outlining how the island’s last major beach renourishment was planned to last 10 years. That was in 2002 and it’s now 2012, Pierro said, so major beach renourishment is right on schedule.
Marine biologist Lauren Floyd, also from Coastal P&E, discussed the beach ecosystem and how beach sand protects and promotes the natural habitat of many birds and animals found along Anna Maria Island shores.
Also on the agenda was Don Ross of Earth Balance Inc. His company plants vegetation along beaches to promote the growth of dunes and keep sand from blowing away. About 85 percent of people ask for sea oats to be planted, he said.
The sea oats grow quickly and in one six-month growing season can be several feet high and protecting the dunes and animal habitat, Ross said.
The company will be working with beachfront homeowners to assist in planting sea oats and other beach vegetation after renourishment, and will have a Florida Department of Environmental Protection agent on-hand to issue an on-site permit for plantings. Interested parties can contact Ross through the natural resources department at 941-742-5980.
Hunsicker said he wanted to spread the word that Ross and his company are available to private property owners and municipal governments interested in planting sea oats or other beach vegetation.
“Maybe we can get 10-15 beachfront property owners in a row to combine and have sea oats planted. This makes the process easier and gives a wider area of dunes and habitat,” Hunsicker said.
Hunsicker will be returning to the island in late summer to give another update, before renourishment begins.
“This show will go on the road and be presented again,” he said.
Hunsicker hopes for more attendance at the next meetings and for beachfront owners to bind together for planting beach vegetation, considering the importance of renourishment, dunes and the beach environment.
Funding for Phase 1 of the upcoming Anna Maria Island beach renourishment project comes from $16 million in federal funds available to beaches damaged by Tropical Storm Debby in 2011, plus $5.4 million shared equally by the state and Manatee County. Total cost of the first phase is estimated at about $21.4 million.
The second phase, estimated to cost $6.4 million, is funded equally by Manatee County and the state of Florida for $3.2 million each. Manatee County’s costs for beach renourishment come from the resort tax, the 5 percent collected on accommodation rentals of six months or less.
Federal funds for beach renourishment were approved in the 2012 budget.