State: Groin not needed at Manatee Public Beach

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The Manatee Public Beach pier was closed in 2008 shortly after this photo was taken. It was demolished in 2009.The pier was popular with strollers, fishers and surfers, but it lacked maintenance from storm damages. Islander File Photo

Never say never.

Citing a lack of erosion, the state will not issue a permit for the replacement of a pier-like groin once prominent at the Manatee Public Beach in Holmes Beach.

But never say never, Charlie Hunsicker, director of the Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources Department, told county commissioners March 9.

The original groin was one of four built on Anna Maria Island about 50 years ago — three at Cortez Beach and one at Manatee Public Beach — to hold sand in place. The Manatee beach groin did its job for decades before being demolished in 2009, after being deemed in derelict condition, Hunsicker told commissioners.

“We let it go for so long that repairs were not feasible,” he said. “We could not save it. It was falling in on people who walked underneath it.”

When the county removed the groin, officials were concerned about not having a structure in place to protect beach sand in that area. State officials, who disdain hard structures on beaches, told the county to prove that the groin was holding the beach together by itself and, without it, a large amount of beach erosion would occur.

And the county commission made a promise to Holmes Beach to find funding and replace the pier.

The county began monitoring the “beach’s performance” from the day the groin was removed and, Hunsicker said, “we’re not finding any retreat or erosion at all.”

Hunsicker said erosion is not a problem there because past efforts to renourish beaches to the north and south — at equal lengths and depths — created a bookend effect at the Manatee Public Beach.

“Because of the effect of sand on both sides, Manatee is no longer eroding,” Hunsicker said, adding that the whole beach is “moving back and forth” with a loss of about 8 to 10 feet of beach per year along the entire island.

“But there are really no hotspots where it’s accelerated because we’ve book-ended everything,” he said.

County Commissioner Carol Whitmore, a former mayor and commissioner in Holmes Beach, noted island cities likely would oppose the proposal of a new, 15-foot tall groin at Manatee Public Beach. She stated that a recreational pier still is an option, but Hunsicker said such a project would not be eligible for funding from the tourist-tax fund.

Hunsicker updated commissioners on the county’s beach renourishment efforts. Through three projects spread out in nine segments, the first of which began in 1992, the county plans to renourish 6.6 miles of island beach by 2022. Looking further out, the county predicts spending $17.3 million on beach renourishment between now and 2031, with $20.2 million contributed by the state and $19.7 million allocated by the federal government as well.


More renourishment funds?

Meanwhile, state Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, and state Rep. Kathleen Peters, R-South Pasadena, introduced legislation March 3 intended to protect Florida’s beaches.

The proposal, which Hunsicker referenced in his March 9 presentation to commissioners, dedicates a minimum of $50 million annually to state beach nourishment and inlet management restoration projects. The measure also would revisit an old ranking system to ensure funding is used for projects that address the most severe erosion problems, according to the bill’s sponsors.

“Florida’s beaches define our state’s unique brand and drive our tourism economy,” Latvala said in a news release. “Unfortunately, over half of Florida’s sandy beaches are eroding and only half of these miles of eroded beaches are part of a beach project. We can point fingers or offer excuses, but the simple answer is not enough funding, and this bill addresses that.”

In 2016, the amount of state funding totaled a third of the requested funds by local governments, leaving a backlog of eroded beaches needing repair, according to the news release. In recent years, Florida has spent about $30 million annually on beach repair, including on Anna Maria Island.

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