The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has ruled Anna Maria filled the beach at the city pier with more sand than allowed by its permit during the February Bimini Bay dredging project and has ordered the city to remove the excess sand.
In a March 23 meeting with Mayor Mike Selby and public works supervisor George McKay, DEP compliance inspector Lauren Greenfield told the city it had filled the pier beach area beyond what was allowed by the DEP permit and was guilty of a DEP violation.
Greenfield said a DEP inspection team March 9 found the nourishment area by the pier “appears to extend approximately 40 feet farther waterward and 330 feet southeast than what was authorized.”
When the Bimini Bay project finished pumping sand in late February, the beach by the pier extended outward from the shore an estimated 150 feet, and south from the Lake LaVista jetty about 500 feet.
The DEP authorization was for enough dredged material — sand — to be pumped from Bimini Bay to the pier to extend the beach outward about 100 feet and southeast from the Lake LaVista jetty approximately 200 feet. The authorization for the Bimini Bay sand to be pumped to Anna Maria was a modification of the city’s existing permit to dredge the Lake LaVista channel.
McKay “did not disagree that the fill is beyond the permitted area,” Greenfield said.
However, Greenfield and her team didn’t fully pull the plug on the project.
Greenfield told Selby and McKay that the DEP has issued a violation notice and usually — in these situations — assesses a monetary penalty against the violator. The DEP said the city had overall responsibility to monitor the amount of material pumped to the pier beach.
But the DEP may give the city a break. Instead of a hefty fine, the DEP suggested the city remove the sand and undertake a restoration project “in lieu of penalties.”
Greenfield, DEP compliance manager Maryellen Edwards and permit manager Allyson Minick said the city — as mitigation for the violation — could remove the excess material at the pier beach and fill in an unauthorized channel adjacent to 643 Key Royale Drive, Holmes Beach.
The DEP team did give the city the option of paying a fine, but Greenfield said a consent order “may be needed” to resolve the violation, regardless of whether the city pays a fine or pumps the excess material into the designated channel.
Selby and McKay said they prefer to not have a consent order issued, but Greenfield said the DEP team would first have to discuss the request with the program administrator, and would likely need “something in writing” from the city to show what it will do to correct the violation.
McKay said that since Greenfield’s March 9 inspection, the pier shoreline has lost about 10 feet of beach.
Sam Johnston, a consultant for the West Coast Inland Navigation District that oversaw the Bimini Bay project, said he believes much of the remaining sand will “be gone in a few months.”
If that’s the case, Greenfield said, the city should look into a “long-term solution,” such as a jetty and/or breakwater to “minimize the slow loss of beach.”
She said the city could do hydraulic modeling to find the best solution. The modeling might show that extending the Lake LaVista inlet jetties farther into Tampa Bay might significantly reduce the rate of beach loss.
McKay said the city has “already looked into extending the jetties” to reduce the frequency of dredging the inlet.
An informal survey of the size of the pier beach at high tide found the beach extended into Tampa Bay about 120 feet from the shore by the pier. A similar measurement three weeks ago found about 150 feet of beach by the pier at high tide.
McKay noted that before this year, Bimini Bay/Key Royale Canal was last dredge in 2001. He asked the DEP to put dredging of Bimini Bay/Key Royale Canal on a five-year cycle.
The Lake LaVista inlet is dredged about every 18 months, he said, and estimated about 1,600 cubic yards of material is removed in each cycle.
Selby said he would wait to present the DEP findings to the city commission until he learns the amount of sand the DEP requires the city to remove, the preferred removal method and the amount of the fine, if any.
“I will, however, discuss the situation individually with each commissioner to let them know what the DEP has advised us,” he said.
Greenfield said the DEP would have to study the violation further to determine the amount of any fine.
At the same March 23 meeting, McKay asked the DEP for permission to use the lot on the north side of Lake LaVista inlet to stockpile sand, but Minick said the city would need to apply for a permit and include a drawing of the area and a list of best management practices for the storage site.
Minick said the city should apply as quickly as possible so the site is available when needed by the city.
The city recently moved the sand stored at the site north of the jetty to the north end of Bayfront Park on learning its Lake LaVista dredge permit did not allow sand storage on the north side of the jetty.
The sand is used for sandbags during inclement weather.
Greenfield and her team will contact the city when it has more information on how it should remove the excess beach and move it to the unauthorized channel.
The city might have to hire a dredging firm, such as Florida Dock & Dredge Inc., the company that did the recent Bimini Bay project, and pump the excess sand at the pier beach to the unauthorized channel in the bay near 643 Key Royale Drive.