Beach renourishment phase No. 1 near completion

Rain, rain — and cold fronts — go away.

If all goes well and a storm with no name doesn’t strike Anna Maria Island this week, beach renourishment from 79th Street south to 13th Street South should be completed.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is in charge of the $12 million project that began Dec. 20. The project was to finish in 60 days, weather permitting, but Great Lakes Dredge and Dock had several days of high wind and surf during which it could not operate its dredge in the Gulf of Mexico.

According to Corps spokesperson Sirisha Rayaprolu, “If all goes well, we should be done by March 3.”

That would complete the first of two beach renourishment projects on the island. The first project is funded with approximately $13 million from federal, state and county sources.

Phase 2 of beach renourishment is contracted with GLDD by Manatee County, and renourishes Coquina Beach south to the Longboat Pass. This is funded with $5.7 million from Manatee County, with the state eventually reimbursing the county for about half the cost, Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources director Charlie Hunsicker said.

When GLDD completes Phase 1, it will take a few days to relocate its pipes, pump and lift stations and other equipment to the Coquina Beach staging area, before resuming to pump sand, he said.

It will be a welcome relief for motel guests in Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach who have had to climb over the pipes to get to the beach.

“It wasn’t an inconvenience, really,” said Sally Morningale of North Carolina.

“It had to be done. We see it all the time in North Carolina. But these people worked very fast,” she added.

Morningale and her family were staying beachfront in Bradenton Beach.

Phase 2 is expected to take about 30 days, weather permitting, Hunsicker said.

All beach renourishment is planned to finish April 30 — before the May 1 start of turtle-nesting season.

Anna Maria Island’s first major renourishment was in 1992, while a second project occurred in 2002. An emergency renourishment took place in 2005.

The projects can be under the direction of the Corps or, as is the case for the Coquina Beach renourishment, Manatee County and Coastal Planning and Engineering of Boca Raton.

Manatee County funds for beach renourishment come from the resort tax, the 5 percent collected on rentals of six months or less in the county.

Hunsicker said he will discuss how much the state will pay the county for its share when Coquina Beach is finished, but he estimated it will be about half of the $5.7 million.

Bradenton Beach Mayor Bill Shearon said once Coquina Beach renourishment is finished, the county will address replacement of the groins at Cortez and Coquina beaches with modern groins that can control the flow of water and the north-south movement of sand along the beaches.

Hunsicker said the groins are in the long-range plan for Cortez and Coquina beaches, but funding is not yet in place.

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