Great Lakes Dredge may halt or renegotiate renourishment

Change has to be expected when dealing with shifting sands on the beach.

Plans in the past week for the Anna Maria Island beach renourishment project were shifting just like the sandy shore.

Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources director Charlie Hunsicker alerted island officials, including Bradenton Beach Mayor Bill Shearon, that Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Corp. would halt the present renourishment effort for the U.S. Corps of Engineers Feb. 5. They their goal would be to reach Fifth Street South.

Hunsicker said GLDD officials told him they were taking the dredge to New Orleans for an emergency project.

The plan to have GLDD complete the Corps project, then continue south to renourish Coquina Beach under a separate contract using just state and county funds would be interrupted.

And piggybacking the projects is expected to save the county an estimated $3 million in mobilization costs, Hunsicker said.

But late Friday afternoon, Jan. 31, Hunsicker said GLDD was willing to reconsider its departure for New Orleans.

Hunsicker hoped negotiations could lead to GLDD staying to complete both the Corps and the Coquina Beach projects.

Even if negotiations fail and GLDD leaves when it reaches Fifth Street South, all is not lost, Hunsicker said.

GLDD agreed not to charge the county for remobilizing for the Coquina Beach project on its return from New Orleans.

In the event GLDD departs early, Hunsicker said the company is not abandoning the island project.

If GLDD leaves early, it will finish pumping in Bradenton Beach, and move sand at about a 45-degree angle toward the shore. This should ensure sand already on the beach will not have washed away when GLDD returns, Hunsicker said.

“We call it ‘tapering’ and it will keep the sand in place,” he said.

He estimated the 45-degree angle of sand would stretch about a half mile along the beach and converge with the shoreline at about the third groin north of the Coquina Beach lifeguard station.

If GLDD stays, it will continue southward to Longboat Pass. With favorable weather, the second project could finish by early April, Hunsicker said.

If the Coquina Beach project is delayed after several years of planning, Hunsicker said it’s “just one of those things we have to deal with.”

Corps spokeswomen Sirisha Rayaprolu said GLDD is obligated to the Corps project. “We would hold them to the contract with us,” she said, because the project is midway to completion.

Rayaprolu said she did not know why GLDD was leaving after the Corps project.

Hunsicker said GLDD officials informed him the company had a job in New Orleans that was “an emergency,” but had no further information. He declined to speculate as to whether the New Orleans job would pay more money than the $3 million Cortez Beach project.

Bradenton Beach Mayor Bill Shearon, however, said he could understand why GLDD would take the New Orleans job if it offered more money.

“Money talks. You go where the money is,” he said.

Shearon said he hoped GLDD, if it leaves, would keep its word and return soon to finish Coquina Beach, and that “it doesn’t charge any extra money to mobilize,” he added.

Shearon has another reason for wanting renourishment to be completed as soon as possible.

Once Coquina Beach is renourished, plans are in place to replace the old groins at Cortez and Coquina beaches with new, state-of-the-art structures that allow some seawater and sand to filter through the groin. The amount of flow can be adjusted by marine engineers to ensure sand is retained, or allowed to flow off a beach that’s top-heavy with sand, Hunsicker has said.

GLDD had favorable sea conditions last week and, by Jan. 31, had renourished southward to 28th Street in Holmes Beach. The company began renourishment at 79th Street. GLDD can pump an average of 1,000 feet of sand per day onto the beach, Rayaprolu said.

With favorable winds, GLDD could reach Fifth Street South in a few weeks, she noted, but not likely by Feb. 5.


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