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Beachbuilders resume dredging, pumping sand

By Rick Catlin, Islander Reporter

Beach walkers pass by silent equipment Jan. 22 as weather once again forced a halt to the ongoing, off again beach renourishment dredge-and-pump operations. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

Bill Davidson, left, and wife Amanda Davidson from Alberta, Canada, and Dan and Annie Garbowitz of Chicago check for beach renourishment activity Jan. 22, but the equipment was silent. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

Anna Maria Island’s beach renourishment project appears stuck between cold weather systems dropping down from the north.

According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, dredging operations were halted Jan. 20 due to northerly winds and rough seas nearshore in the Gulf of Mexico. When seas reach 4-5 feet, contractor Great Lakes Dredge and Dock halts dredging and moves its equipment north to safe harbor near Fort De Soto Park in Pinellas County.

Pumping resumed Jan. 26 and GLDD was able to renourish southward to 31st Street in Holmes Beach by Jan. 27 from the Dec. 20 starting point at 79th Street.

GLDD lost several days of dredging during the holidays in late December, but progressed along the beach rapidly when the weather allowed, Corps spokeswoman Sirisha Rayaprolu said.

When dredging is a daily decision, she said. “It’s day to day because of the changing weather conditions.”

GLDD has 60 days from the Dec. 20 start to reach Coquina Beach. That would put the contract end date at Feb. 18, but GLDD has some contract allowances for bad weather.

Rayaprolu said GLDD can renourish 1,000 feet of sand per day, weather permitting.

When dredging is halted, GLDD workers use the time to smooth sand already pumped on the beach and relocate equipment further south. The company is operating 24/7.

The slowdown of the project aggravated some visitors.

Dan and Annie Garbowitz of Chicago said they were leaving two days earlier than planned because the renourishment equipment was directly in front of their beachfront rental.

“But the people were very nice and gave us a refund,” Dan Garbowitz said.

Others, such as Bill and Amanda Davidson from Alberta, Canada, said they didn’t mind the equipment that much.

“The weather is still a lot better here than back home. We came 4,000 miles to enjoy the island and we’re going to do that,” Bill Davidson said.

“This is a lot better than the subzero temperatures back home,” wife Amanda added.

With a period of good weather, dredging can resume and GLDD could reach Bradenton Beach at 27th Street in a day or two, Rayaprolu said.

The current project is funded with federal, state and county money at a cost of $12 million.

This project ends at Coquina Beach, where a second project funded solely by state and county money begins, will renourish the public beach going south to Longboat Pass.

GLDD will renourish Coquina Beach at an estimated cost of $3 million.

Having both projects done at the same time saved about $3 million in mobilization costs, Manatee County Commissioner John Chappie said.

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

 

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