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Beach renourishment on track, almost

By Rick Catlin, Islander Reporter

Renourishment pumps discharge sand at Manatee Public Beach Jan. 15. Great Lakes Dredge and Dock moved rapidly south from 79th Street to make up for days lost to bad weather. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

Islander photographer Jack Elka gets an uncommon view Jan. 16 of the beachbuilders’ progress to the Manatee Public Beach, 4000 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach.

Beachgoers inspect the renourishment activity Jan. 15 at the Manatee Public Beach. Great Lakes Dredge and Dock pumped sand from its offshore dredge to the beach. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

Beach builders last week made progress on the shore of Anna Maria Island.

The work moved southward as planned, from 79th Street to the Manatee Public Beach in the 4000 block of Gulf Drive in Holmes Beach.

The renourishment was in high gear, if only for a short time, after Great Lakes Dredge and Dock again halted operations Jan. 19 because of possible impacts to its equipment from high winds and rough seas.

With good but chilly weather off and on again as cold fronts dropped across the Tampa Bay area, GLDD managed to renourish the shoreline from the 79th Street starting point to 38th Street, past the Manatee Public Beach, in about two weeks.

But Mother Nature is fickle.

Inclement weather forced GLDD to halt dredging Jan. 16-17, and the upcoming short-term forecasts do not appear to be encouraging.

Winds in the Gulf of Mexico Jan. 16 brought seas of 5 feet and higher. GLDD halts dredging when seas are higher than 4 feet in the Gulf because the waves and strong westerly winds can both break pumping lines and damage the dredge, a GLDD engineer said.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokeswoman Sirisha Rayaprolu said the Corps and GLDD are taking it “one day at a time.”

The Corps is supervising the current plan to place sand on the shore from 79th Street to Coquina Beach.

Rayaprolu said she would consult with GLDD engineers each day on whether dredging could safely resume.

“They did a good job making up for lost time,” Rayaprolu said of the GLDD effort since Jan. 1. “But we can’t risk damaging the dredge or the pipeline.”

If the weather improves and dredging resumes, Great Lakes can renourish 1,000 feet of beach per day and make up for lost days, she said. Weather permitting, GLDD works 24/7.

While dredging was halted, the company went to work on the shoreline, smoothing the added sand and ensuring equipment on the beach was secure and unharmed by the high winds, Rayaprolu added.

With good weather, dredging will resume and GLDD could reach Bradenton Beach within a few days, she said.

The GLDD contract with the Corps calls for the 79th Street-to-Coquina Beach project to finish within 60 days of the Dec. 20 start, which puts the finish line at Feb. 18.

The current project is funded with federal, state and county money at a cost of $12 million. The project ends at Coquina Beach, then a second renourishment project funded solely by state and county money begins. GLDD will also renourish Coquina Beach at an estimated cost of $3 million.

The Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources Department will head Coquina Beach renourishment, said director Charlie Hunsicker. Coastal Planning and Engineering has been hired to also supervise the Coquina operation.

Anna Maria Island beaches have been renourished about every 10 years since the first renourishment in 1992. A second project began in 2002.

An emergency renourishment project in 2005 by the Corps ended unfinished and abruptly near Bridge Street in Bradenton Beach. The Corps said the contractor, which was not GLDD, had failed to meet the standards required in the contract.

Great Lakes performed the 1992 and 2002 renourishments.

Anna Maria beaches are not included in the present project, according to Hunsicker, because when marine engineers surveyed the north end, including Bean Point, they found it “healthy and in good shape.”

When all renourishment is completed, Bradenton Beach Mayor Bill Shearon said Manatee County plans to replace the decrepit groins at Cortez Beach with new structures that will hold sand in place while allowing seawater to flow through them.

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