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Beach renourishment begins with hiccup

By Rick Catlin, Islander Reporter

This couple is determined Dec. 21 to find a path to walk the beach on the shore of the Gulf of Mexico fronting the Blue Water Beach Club, 6306 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, in spite of a blockade of equipment and fencing placed by the dredge company. Islander Photos: Bonner Joy

The beach renourishment contractor began pumping sand in the afternoon — here at 65th Street — on Dec. 21 in Holmes Beach. Islander Photo: Bonner Joy

Chris Kaplan, left, of George F. Young, subcontractor to beach renourishment contractor Great Lakes Dock & Dredge, talks to Guy Nimro of Holmes Beach about the ongoing work at 65th Street. The sand started flowing Dec. 21.

The dredge is visible on the horizon in the Gulf of Mexico toward the north end of Anna Maria Island and a buoy near shore marks the pipe location, but beachgoers didn’t have to wonder when the sand started pumping. Front-end loaders, backhoes and other earthmoving equipment roared, back-up warning sounds blared and sand gushed into large sifting cages before being disbursed north and south on the shore. By Dec. 21, the sand was flowing at 65th Street, and beachgoers were gathering for the long-awaited spectacle.

The long-awaited renourishment of Anna Maria Island beaches from 79th Street in Holmes Beach to Coquina Beach began Monday, Dec. 16, but there was an immediate, if temporary, problem.

Great Lakes Dredge & Dock of Chicago, the contractor charged with renourishing the beach, placed some equipment on the beach in front of Blue Water Beach Club, 6306 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach. That forced Blue Water’s beachgoers to detour around the equipment and over a berm with growing sea oats, said Sebastian Mueller of Blue Water.

The problem was solved for a time following a telephone call to The Islander from Mueller, a phone call to Manatee County Parks Natural Resources director Charlie Hunsicker, who called the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who called Great Lakes.

Mueller said Great Lakes came Wednesday, Dec. 18, and moved its equipment away from the beach access.

“Thanks to everyone for solving this and making our guests happy,” Mueller said then.

But the enjoyment and the beach access, was short-lived. On Dec. 20, Great Lakes moved its barge and equipment back in front of Blue Water to begin the renourishment.

Workers for Great Lakes said the equipment would be moved again as soon as that section of beach is renourished. And sand was pouring onto the beach there by Dec. 22.

Hunsicker also said the company would work as fast as possible to renourish that area, then move south along the beach.

“This was mobilization,” he said. Pumping of sand from the borrow area, which is about 2,000 feet off the north end of the island, had not yet begun.

Hunsicker said Great Lakes has incentives in its contract to finish renourishment, which will progress down to Coquina Beach by early February, when tourism traditionally begins in earnest on the island.

The company will work from 79th Street in Holmes Beach south to Coquina Beach, but the sand will be pumped ashore in the 6300 block of Gulf Drive in Holmes Beach.

After renourishing Cortez Beach, Great Lakes will renourish from Coquina Beach to Longboat Pass, Hunsicker said.

Anna Maria beaches are not included in this renourishment project because marine engineers have found them to be “in good shape,” Hunsicker said.

Manatee County’s portion of the $16 million renourishment project comes from the tourist development tax. That’s the 5 percent on rentals of six months or less collected by the county.

Often called the bed tax, the money collected provides for beach renourishment, in addition to the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Bradenton Area Convention Center and other public tourist attractions in the county.

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