Abundant beaches, Coquina on track, end is near

To borrow a phrase from Frank Sinatra’s song “My Way,” the end is near for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers beach renourishment project on Anna Maria Island.

Workers for Great Lakes Dredge and Dock reached their first finale March 5 at 13th Street South in Bradenton Beach of two Anna Maria Island projects.

According to Sirisha Rayaprolu, corps spokeswoman in Jacksonville, all that remains of the $13 million federal project is to put the finishing touches on the beach at 13th Street South.

However, a drive by March 8 of the Manatee Public Beach, 4000 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, confirmed the staging area in the parking lot there has yet to be cleared and cleaned up.

Meanwhile, the next phase of renourishment is already underway — a Manatee County project from Cortez Beach southward through Coquina Beach to Longboat Pass. GLDD immediately began work and by March 7 had reached the second lifeguard station.

This $5.7 million project is funded with state and county money. The county’s share comes from the 5 percent resort tax collected on rentals of six months or less in the county. The state will reimburse the county for a portion of the cost, Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources director Charlie Hunsicker said.

The goal to have phase 1 of beach renourishment completed by early March has been met, Rayaprolu said.

“Everything seems to be on schedule for the corps,” Rayaprolu said.

Now, GLDD will work 24/7 to complete renourishment, weather permitting, to Longboat Pass by early April.

Renourishment by April 30 is desired because May 1 is the start of turtle nesting season and equipment on the beach would be an impediment to mother sea turtles searching for a place to lay their eggs.

Phase 2 of beach renourishment is monitored by Hunsicker’s department and Coastal Planning and Engineering.

“We’re moving right along,” Hunsicker said.

He said he was pleased renourishment from 79th Street North to 13th Street South was accomplished with minimal interference for beachgoers.

GLDD built sandy walkovers nearly every 100 yards of its pipes, allowing people access to the beach and the Gulf of Mexico waters.

Hunsicker said GLDD would place similar walkovers as it continues southward.

Island visitors were generally pleased with how quickly renourishment went.

“It was only in front of our cottage for a few days, and they had a walkover for us. Then it was gone. The noise didn’t bother us either,” said Gale Morningdale of Syracuse, New York.

“It’s something that had to be done. Thankfully, they did it quickly.”

Others were not so pleased. The Ozmanski family of Pittsburgh asked for a refund after they observed the operation in front of their beachfront resort.

“They never told us this would happen,” said a displeased Oscar Ozmanski.

But Sebastian Mueller, manager of the Blue Water Beach Club on the Gulf at 6306 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, said he couldn’t be more pleased with how quickly the renourishment went.

“And the people were very accommodating. When I asked that equipment be moved so guests could get to the beach, they immediately complied and were very pleasant. They did a good job and our guests were happy,” he said.

Bradenton Beach Mayor Bill Shearon, owner of the Linger Longer Lodge, 302 Gulf Drive S., Bradenton Beach, the farthest south lodging facility on the Gulf, said he was pleased at how efficient GLDD was in renourishing.

“They moved in quick and it looks like they’re working real fast to finish up. There was only a little noise at night,” said Shearon.

“Of course, we were the last beachfront lodging in the renourishment stack, so we had a few months before they arrived. But I’m pleased. Looks like they’re continuing to renourish south,” he said.

When renourishment is finished, Manatee County plans to replace the defunct groins along Cortez Beach with state-of-the-art groins that allow some sand and water to flow through the groin.

An example of the new groin is in operation at Coquina Beach, adjacent to the Longboat Pass.

According to Hunsicker, a decision has yet to be made by Manatee County as to when construction of the groins will begin because of sea turtle nesting season.

He also said a decision to allow pedestrians and anglers on the groins is subject to negotiations between the county, Shearon and the Bradenton Beach City Commission.

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