Tag Archives: News

Super win

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Jay Drisbow, an avid horseshoe player at Anna Maria City Hall, turned his attention to another game Feb. 4. He entered The Islander’s annual Super Bowl contest and won $100. Remember to “get in the game” next fall, when the 2018-19 football season begins. Islander Photo: Lisa Williams

Island mom walks for millions of ‘broken’ hearts

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This valentine is all about CHD ...
Susan Timmins arrives at the Anna Maria City Pier Feb. 14, 2017, having completed a 30-kilometer fundraising walk for the Adult Congenital Heart Association. Timmins, who took the walk to celebrate her daughter’s 30th birthday, will repeat the walk this Valentine’s Day, this time covering 31 kilometers. Islander Courtesy Photo

Hearts get broken every day — by love, attack or accident.

Some hearts just come into the world broken and such a case makes for a lifetime of special heart care.

Susan Timmins, wife and partner with Sean Murphy in the Beach Bistro, chose Valentine’s Day once again to highlight a special cause close to her family and her heart — congenital heart disease or CHD.

Last year, the couple’s daughter, Alexandra, turned 30 and Timmins celebrated by walking 30 kilometers on Anna Maria Island, every step to raise funds for the Adult Congenital Heart Association. When Alex was born, doctors told Timmins and Murphy that the chances of seeing her first birthday were slim.

Timmins pledged to walk 31 kilometers on the island this Feb. 14 to celebrate another birthday and again raise funds for ACHA.

Her route is from the northern tip of the island to the Longboat Pass bridge and back until the 31K mark is reached. Timmins says anyone who wants to join her along the way is welcome. She’s also collecting pledge money.

Donors will be treated to a beachside evening reception in April at the Beach Bistro —the couple’s most award-winning of three island eateries —as a thank you for supporting the cause.

The week of Feb. 7-14 was Congenital Heart Awareness Week.

Money raised on the walk will be used to improve care for those living with congenital heart disease. One in every 100 people are born with CHD — more than 40,000 babies a year in the United States. Based on numbers extrapolated from Canadian studies, about 2.4 million people in the United States are living with the condition.

Research into congenital heart defects, the most common of all birth defects, remains underfunded and treatment is lacking, though innovative medicine in recent decades has resulted in 85-95 percent of people born with CHD now living to adulthood according to the ADHA.

Consequently, more adults are living with CHD than children and specialized care is needed.

“The ACHA has new initiatives I am really excited about,” Timmins said. “If only the day would come when we didn’t have to do so much research and treatments were clearly defined.”

Timmins added, “There is still a gap for adult survivors and we have to find the answers.”

Timmins planned to get the walk underway at 8:15 a.m. Feb. 14 at the City Pier in Anna Maria. Last year’s walk took more than 10 hours to complete.

The link to Timmins page about ACHD is 2018achachallenge.causevox.com/susan-timmins.

She can be reached for more information at 941-730-4751 or susan@beachbistro.com.

“I want my daughter and everyone born with congenital heart defects to have a long lifetime of birthdays to celebrate,” Timmins said about the cause that is so close to her heart.

And what better way to draw attention to that cause than Valentine’s Day, when hearts and heartfelt love leave us with a sweeter taste for life?

Eyes on the road

The Florida Department of Transportation posted the following notice for the week of Feb. 12:

  • State Road 789/Gulf Drive from SR 64/Manatee Avenue to SR 684/Cortez Road: Manatee County crews are replacing force mains and water mains. For more information about the project, go online to amipipereplacement.com.

For the latest road watch information, go online to www.fl511.com or dial 511.

Turtle watch request: Wish upon a star, not a lantern

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Suzi Fox, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring executive director, displays the unburnt remains of a wish lantern found at Tortuga Inn Resort in Bradenton Beach in 2014. She said the lantern was one of about 14 she and code enforcement officers found partially burnt following a nighttime launch. Islander Photo: Courtesy AMITW

“When you wish upon a star…” so the 1940s song goes.

It was written by Leigh Harline and Ned Washington for Walt Disney’s 1940 adaptation of the movie “Pinocchio.”

Wishing upon a star is harmless, but a wish lantern could harm wildlife and the environment.

Similar to balloon and dove releases, lantern releases have grown in popularity in recent years as a memorial at celebrations, but, like balloons, lanterns are known to be dangerous and wasteful, with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reporting wildlife injuries around the state due to lantern litter.

Usually made of paper or cloth with a flame supported by a wire, floating into the sky when lit, the lantern debris falls to the ground when the flame burns out.

“They are trash,” said Suzi Fox, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring executive director. “They are frequently advertised as biodegradable when they are not.”

Fox said, as Anna Maria Island becomes more and more popular for family reunions and weddings, lantern launches have become a problem.

Additionally, a wish lantern — also referred to as a sky lantern, sky candle or sky balloon — is prohibited by Florida law as a “firework.” Public use is prohibited, though permits can be issued by local fire districts for controlled releases in low-wind conditions.

Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale said use of the lanterns escalated several years ago, but decreased for a time after firefighters with West Manatee Fire Rescue frequented the beach and warned people who were launching lanterns.

According to Fox, the wire support hoop in some lanterns is a hazard for sea turtles, shorebirds and other marine life and wildlife, which can become entangled in the debris.

“They can float over a mile away from where they were launched and frequently land in trees and on rooftops,” Fox said. “Not to mention what can happen to wildlife.”

To report use of wish lanterns or other fireworks, call code enforcement in the appropriate city:

  • Anna Maria code enforcement — 941-708-6130, ext. 139 or ext. 129.
  • Bradenton Beach code enforcement — 941-778-1005, ext. 280.
  • Holmes Beach code enforcement — 941-708-5800, ext. 247.

Report sick, injured, entangled or dead sea turtles or shorebirds to the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline, at 1-888-404-3922, #FWC or *FWC on a cellphone or text Tip@MyFWC.com.

 

Cold stun fatal for green sea turtle, another on the mend

ChrisAnn Silver Esformes

Islander Reporter

“In this big world, you can try, but you can’t save them all,” said Suzi Fox, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring executive director, regarding a cold-stunned green sea turtle rescued Jan. 19 after it washed ashore near the Rod & Reel Pier in Anna Maria.

The turtle — named Molly by rescuers — was transported Jan. 20 to Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota for rehabilitation, but died several days later.

The juvenile turtle was suffering the effects of a rapid drop in water temperature, known as “cold-stunning,” but also had contracted fibropapillomatosis, a disease specific to sea turtles. The condition is a Herpes virus characterized by benign but crippling tumors on the skin and occasionally the carapace.

“It is important to know that this little one will be studied and help us conduct more research to help bring this virus to an end,” Fox said.

Another cold-stunned green turtle was rescued a day later, Jan. 20, when it was found stuck in a crab trap in Tampa Bay near the north end of Anna Maria Island.

The sub-adult green turtle — named Reel by rescuers —was transported to Mote for rehabilitation and is improving.

According to Fox, Reel should soon be ready for release.

“Green turtles are still struggling on the endangered list,” Fox said. “The life of each of these turtles is precious to preserving the species.”

To report a cold-stunned or stranded turtle, contact Fox at 941-778-5638, or call the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922.

The Gulf of Mexico, bay waters slowly encroach on paradise

Think of it as akin to in-season traffic, a local environmental scientist said.

Sea level rise is not unlike the number of cars building up slowly on the barrier islands as season gets underway.

“It won’t be an inundation, like we have in a storm,” Jennifer Shafer said of the rising waters encroaching on paradise. “It’s more a slow-motion creep where we begin to notice business as usual is disrupted, and it’s happening on more and more days of the year.”

Shafer, of Shafer Consulting of Sarasota, says places such as Egmont Key — named to Florida’s most endangered places list in November 2017 — and the bustling streets of Anna Maria Island and other barrier islands around the world, will soon look very different.

The “best understanding” of the science of ice melts is driving the predications, which in some cases are dire.

Though some factions dispute the possibility of or even the existence of global warming, the melting of the planet’s polar regions and northern ice sheets cannot be denied.

The National Snow and Ice Data Center, a NASA supported entity, said January statistics for the arctic ice cap set a new daily record low for coverage — 42,0000 square miles below the monthly averages of 2017.

Antarctica, likewise, hit a low that was second only to one reading since records started in 1979.

But scientists like Shafer say the worst sea level rise caused by ice melt is that of land ice, such as Greenland’s, which is thawing at a rate that is raising sea level 0.74 millimeters a year.

Andrea Dutton, assistant professor of geology at the University of Florida, told Scientific American the rate is increasing and the acceleration has doubled Greenland’s contribution to sea level rise compared to the period from 1992-2011. The water is rising slowly.

 

What can be done

Global sea level has been rising over the past century and was 2.6 inches above the average for the past two decades in 2014. It continues to increase yearly, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Levels are monitored by satellite and at tide stations, such as the local station in St. Petersburg.

Sea level rise is a circle of cause and effect — greenhouse gas emissions, warming ocean waters, the melting ice sheets, changing ocean currents due to warming. Oceans absorb more than 90 percent of the increased atmospheric heat associated with emissions from human activities, NOAA states.

Shafer said there are things we can do to mitigate sea level rise, such as the obvious cutting of green house gases. We are just beginning to explore “new science” and what we can do to save coastal cities and land masses.

Local conditions need to be addressed, Shafer said, and climate patterns such as the familiar El Nino and La Nina which occur when the Pacific current is warmer or cooler than normal, need to be recognized as contributors to precipitation, cloud patterns and local tide levels.

The city of Anna Maria has installed eight of 12 WaStop Inline Check Valves to help control tidal and coastal flooding. The valve is a hollow cone-shaped barrier with an apex facing inward and upward. When water fills the pipe, the pressure lifts the bottom of the barrier, allowing stormwater out.

WaStop valves can enhance the network of drainage ditches and swales installed along the roads on the island more than a decade ago in an attempt to control flooding.

Holmes Beach, likewise, has already installed valves and Bradenton Beach is in the planning stage for installation. The three island cities are funding the projects — without county or other government funds — according to Dean Jones, public works manager for Anna Maria.

Longboat Key announced in January that it is installing valves to mitigate north end tidal flooding and investigating other control measures. Nuisance flooding, a problem for most barrier islands, is occurring at the north end of Longboat Key at a rate between 300 percent and 900 percent more frequently than 50 years ago, according to NOAA.

All of this adds up to a lot of water than needs to be managed.

 

Why Egmont is important

Islanders can spot Egmont Key across Tampa Bay from the north end of Anna Maria. It now sits on that most endangered places list compiled by the Florida Trust for Historical Preservation.

But it’s not just because if Egmont disappears, weekend boaters will have no stop to wander the beaches or check out the old lighthouse.

Egmont Key means a lot more than leisure to some Floridians, including Paul Backhouse, director of the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum and Tribal Historic Preservation Office in Clewiston.

Backhouse knows a piece of history tied to the key — the placing of captured Seminoles during the Seminole War of the 1850s.

Captives were rounded up and carried by boat to Egmont, where there was no way to escape.

More than 100 Seminoles were placed on the island in what Backhouse likened to Alcatraz or a POW camp, and left to wait.

Some died, while some surviving tribe members were taken west to what is now Oklahoma.

Backhouse said unmarked graves are on Egmont, including that of Tigertail, who crushed up a glass bottle and ate the shards, rather than being taken West.

The Seminole tribe doesn’t want Egmont to disappear.

“If that key goes underwater, a part of our tribal history will disappear with it,” Backhouse said.

The tribe works with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to get sand replenished on the beaches of Egmont and has an ongoing project to locate the Seminole graves.

No matter the personal view on global warming, the fact that sea levels around the globe, including here on the beaches of Anna Maria and Egmont Key, are rising is undisputable.

“Acceleration is real,” Shafer said. “A fraction of an inch adds up over time.”

Anna Maria declines wood pilings for pier rebuild

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Jay Saxena, Ayres Associates project leader for the Anna Maria City Pier rebuild, displays samples Jan. 29 of spun-concrete piles and composite piles available to replace the pier’s wood pilings. Islander Photo: Bianca Benedí

Anna Maria commissioners made a decision on one part of the Anna Maria City Pier rebuild: The pilings won’t be made of wood.

The commission voted 4-1 Jan. 29 to direct Ayres Associates to conduct a cost-benefit analysis for two potential materials for the piling construction: Spun-concrete piles or composite piles.

Commissioner Dale Woodland voted against the decision.

The city held a special fact-finding meeting Jan. 29 with Ayres Associates, the Tampa-based engineering firm contracted by the city to design and engineer the pier rebuild, to review options for the pilings.

Because of the risk of worm infestation and rot, as well as the decrease in the quality of available timber over time, wood pilings are not recommended for a structure designed to last 75 to 100 years, according to Jay Saxena, Ayres Associates project leader for the pier rebuild.

Commissioner Carol Carter brought up the Belle Haven cottage, a historical structure at Anna Maria Island Historical Museum that fell into the bay in 1926. According to historical information, Carter said, worms ate the pilings, causing the structure to collapse.

Woodland inquired about using timber pilings in a vinyl wrap.

Saxena responded that his firm wouldn’t extend the expected life span of a timber piling in a vinyl wrapping.

Anna Maria resident Dennis Ellsworth objected to the answer during public comments, noting that although he wasn’t sure wood was the best choice, he did not understand how vinyl would not extend the life of the wood.

Leni Hagen, a former bait shop employee at the Anna Maria City Pier, cited a passage from Carolyne Norwood’s “Anna Maria Island 1940-1970, Tales of Three Cities from Bean Point to Bridge Street,” which said worms had eaten the pilings due to “procrastination” on the part of the residents, who failed to care for the pilings.

“Maintenance has always been a problem” for the Anna Maria City Pier, Hagen said.

Hagen also said she hopes the city will look into sources of funding for maintaining the pier after it is rebuilt, and that the piling material selected will allow crustaceans to attach themselves.

She also commented that it “boggles (her) mind” that the pier was considered safe to host more than 300 people during the centennial celebration six years ago and that the “pilings are a total loss” today.

Commission Chair Doug Copeland said before making the motion for the cost-benefit analysis that the city has to “make decisions … and move on if we want to get this pier in the ground and people out there enjoying it.”

The commission has secured funding from the Manatee County Tourist Development Council and is seeking funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the state of Florida on the basis of a pier with a 75-year life span, Copeland said.

Mayor Dan Murphy also has requested funding from a Manatee County reserve fund, money in excess of the contracted amount paid by the county beach concessionaire based on a percentage of its revenue.

Mitch Purdue, another Anna Maria resident, said in public comments that he believed the city only needed “a couple of million dollars” to rebuild the pier out of wood, a cost he said a city like Anna Maria should easily be able to secure.

“If your employee doesn’t want to look at wood, let a citizen committee look at it. … It’s not rocket science, it’s real simple,” he said.

 

From marine study to pier rebuild

      Murphy began the Jan. 29 city meeting with the commission and Ayres Associates by reviewing the history of the pier project.

The city commissioned a marine study from CBI Engineering in 2015 to determine the state of the city pier.

The study predicted the pier had a five-year expected life span and the city could either pursue a pier rebuild to extend the life span another 75 years, or a patchwork repair project that could extend the life span another 25 years.

The city issued a request for proposals in December 2016 to engineer the city repair work. Three firms responded to the proposal — Wantman Group Inc., McLaren Engineering Group and Taylor Engineering.

One by one, each company was ruled out, Murphy said, due to lack of response, high cost or project demands.

In order to attract new bidders, the city reissued the RFP in July 2017, combining design, engineering and construction services.

Two engineering firms — LTA Engineering and Ayres Associates – responded to the second RFP.

Before the city could review the bids from the second RFP, Hurricane Irma passed through Sept. 10-11, further damaging the pier.

Ayres Associates was available and able to get an engineering team out by the end of that week, Murphy said.

The team examined the pier, determined it should remain closed to the public, and said whether the city chose to repair or rebuild the structure, it would take more than 120 days to complete the project.

According to the terms of the city lease negotiated with Mario Schoenfelder in 2000, “total destruction” of the city pier is defined as any damage that would require closure of more than 120 days.

In a meeting in October 2017, the commission voted unanimously to design a pier rebuild with a 75-100 year life span over proposals for a shorter life span.

“I know there are conflicting stories, but those are the facts. That’s how we got here,” Murphy said Jan. 29.

“Ayres did not say we needed a new pier, the commission decided to build to 100 years.… The responsibility lies with the six of us today,” he said, referring to himself and the commissioners.

Community center director resigns, accomplishments debated

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Lessig

Kristen Lessig resigned as executive director of the Center of Anna Maria Island.

Lessig, who has worked at the center since 2014, said Jan. 31 at a board of directors meeting she accepted a position as youth program director for the Sarasota YMCA.

Lessig said she had weighed the Y’s offer since November 2017. With the center’s recent financial success and growing member activities, she said she feels secure about stepping down.

“To work for the Y system has always been a dream of mine,” Lessig said.

Her final day at the center will be Feb. 19.

Lessig said she has no plans to leave Anna Maria Island. She and her daughter will remain involved in the center.

At the board meeting, Lessig presented a timeline for hiring a director that was unanimously approved by the board.

An interim executive director may be named to give the board another 30-60 days to select a suitable candidate.

David Zaccagnino, chair of the board, said the center’s financial success at the end of 2017 is attributable to Lessig, adding that the center is in the “best condition I’ve ever seen.… Things are just bursting here at the seams.”

“Thank you, Kristen, for everything you’ve done,” said Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie, representing his city at the meeting. “You’ve done an amazing job in what you’ve built here.”

Cindy Thompson, then a board member, was named executive director and Lessig was appointed managing director after executive director Dawn Stiles resigned at the end of 2014. Stiles left to rejoin family in Maine. Thompson left about a year later.

In two years as director, Lessig says center programming has grown to include CrossFit and the Island Fitness partnership, and membership doubled in the past year.

The fitness center became a topic of debate in 2015 at Holmes Beach City Hall when two fitness center operators, including Island Fitness, pleaded to city officials that the center’s fitness expansion was harmful to their business because of rent and tax advantages for the nonprofit.

The employee turnover rate at the center also was a concern, as more than 40 employees came and went during Lessig’s tenure — either fired or resigned — many of them claiming duress and bullying in the workplace.

The center also was rocked by scandals regarding financial concerns, including unaccounted spending, disparity in reporting finances to various organizations, including the city of Anna Maria, and a moral debate over a workplace relationship involving Lessig.

In June 2017, multiple members of the board resigned over concerns about over-spending and the center’s financial losses.

In July 2017, the city of Anna Maria held a financial review of the center to address concerns regarding the center’s debts. The limited number of documents reviewed were furnished by the center.

During the July meeting, John Chambers, a retired financial consultant and certified public accountant, presented the findings of his financial review to the city commission.

He said he believed the center deserved a second chance, but if their spending and income patterns didn’t change, “they (wouldn’t) make it” to the next year.

Community center — finally — in the black

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Joan Pettigrew, of the Eyeland Needlers, and John Munn, Center of Anna Maria Island board member, present the quilt created by the Needlers for a prize during the center's tour of homes in March. Islander Photo: Bianca Benedí

Months ago, the Center of Anna Maria Island was warned that if it could not stick to a budget, it may not last the year.

Board members announced Jan. 31 that since December, for the first time in the fiscal year that began July 1, the center is operating in the black.

With participation rates remaining steady, board members expect growth through the year.

A combination of fundraising and program participation boosted income, said outgoing executive director Kristen Lessig.

Lessig announced at the meeting that she accepted a position at the Sarasota YMCA.

She said the net income for the first half of the fiscal year was $6,023 — in the black — while the board had anticipated the center budget outcome would be more than $13,000 in the red by the end of December.

Direct costs for programs are more than $40,000 below budget for the fiscal year, at $163,689. Indirect and administrative expenses are down more than $27,000 from the budget at $275,007.

Meanwhile, fundraising revenue exceeded budgeted expectations by $15,000 at the end of December.

At $206,200, program revenue is below the budgeted $270,300. However, a decrease in expenses, as well as an increase in donations, helped even out the balance.

“People are investing in the center again,” said board chair David Zaccagnino.

Zaccagnino, a financial adviser with Raymond James, compared the center to the stock market: growing activity and programs increased trust and people are more willing to make large donations to the center as a result.

Part of the this winter’s financial success can be attributed to an anonymous $130,000 donation at the end of the calendar year.

In addition, Lessig said contributions from an estate and a trust allowed the center to replenish its endowment fund.

Lessig said the partnership with Island Fitness, which moved its operations to the center in November 2017, was more beneficial than expected.

However, the $6,000 gain in the current budget year does not take into account the $200,000 annual  losses during Lessig’s past two years, nor the losses — based on audits by Kerkering Barberio — that took place in the past eight or more years.

 

Board members added

      Two people joined the board Jan. 31.

Christine Hicks, a longtime community member, will succeed Jim Froeschle as board treasurer.

Froeschle, who announced his board resignation in December, said he spent the past month reviewing financials with Hicks in order to turn over his responsibilities.

Community member John Munn also joined the board.

Several additional applications were submitted, Zaccagnino said, and the board will continue to review applicants and add to its membership.

However, Zaccagnino said, the board will be more selective of who it brings in, explaining the center did not want the board to fraction as it did in mid-2017, when multiple members of the board stepped down and he stepped in.

 

Fundraisers ahead

      The center is looking toward several fundraising events for the remainder of the year.

Bingo has proven to be a popular event, according to Zaccagnino.

The game night, which began in early January, drew more than 70 people to the first event, and more than 120 attended the second bingo night, Zaccagnino said.

While not intended as a fundraiser, the center earned more than $2,000 from two game nights.

In addition, Zaccagnino said the center is selling out its murder mystery dinners.

Performances of the Las Vegas-themed show, “What Happens In Anna Maria … Stays In Anna Maria” will be at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Feb. 16-17, at the center, 407 Magnolia Ave., Anna Maria.

The murder mystery dinner is “turning out to be our signature event,” Lessig said.

Two companies — Air & Energy and the Boilermaker — are sponsors. The companies also asked to share sponsorship for the next several years, Lessig said.

Lessig also announced that four homes were acquired for the tour of homes, which is Saturday, March 17.

The nonprofit recently received a $1,000 grant from the Michael Saunders Foundation and a $6,500 grant from the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce Giving Back program to support its after-school program.

 

Will the Gulf of Mexico engulf our island paradise?

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The Sarasota Bay Estuary Program’s sea-level-rise map illustrates how a 3-foot rise would impact Anna Maria Island and Egmont Key, which would be underwater. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s highest projection rise is 2.56 feet by 2050.
Egmont Key 1930.
Egmont Key, 2009

The average woman is 5 feet 5 inches tall. That’s 5 inches more than the average sea-level elevation of Anna Maria Island.

Off the northern tip of Anna Maria, past Passage Key and across the channel to Tampa Bay, sits Egmont Key. A national wildlife refuge since the 1970s and a state park, Egmont covers 440 acres and its average elevation is just 3 feet 1 inch above the surrounding sea, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Egmont is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In late 2017, Egmont Key was named one of 11 most endangered places by the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation. The downfall of Egmont is what draws people there — the water.

The trust said the key is endangered because of severe erosion made worse by rising seas. Since 1849, some 380 acres have disappeared and, despite yearly sand replenishment by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, two of the five historic gun batteries have been submerged.

The lighthouse has stood since 1858, faring well in storms. Remnants of Fort Dade from the Spanish-American War era remain on the key’s highest elevation at just over 6 feet.

Egmont has historical significance for the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Visitors and locals arrive by boat to lollygag on the key’s beaches, take photos of wildlife or snorkel submerged ruins.

Fast-forward to 2050, when Jennifer Shafer, a local scientist with Shafer Consulting of Sarasota, says Egmont Key will be a lot different.

“Except for the north end, where there is a slight rise in the elevation, Egmont will be mostly underwater,” Shafer said in a phone interview Jan.22.

 

Barrier island predictions

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration produces the projections many scientists rely on for sea-level rise predictions. Projections are based on greenhouse gas emissions, water vapor and the “best understanding” of the science of ice melts, to which sea level rise is tied.

“It doesn’t look good for any of our barrier islands,” Shafer said.

Any of our barrier islands?

Her prediction includes Anna Maria Island, Longboat Key and all the islands up and down the Florida coast.

Shafer noted the bayfront area of barrier islands flood first, as witnessed on Anna Maria Island.

“Dune systems keep the flooding down on the Gulffront side of barrier islands,” Shafer said. “But the bay side is often inundated.”

It’s a familiar scenario to local islanders, as water levels rise and amounts of precipitation that result in flooding are lessening.

“We also have the so-called ‘sunny day flooding’ where we see water coming up out of the manholes when the weather is perfectly clear. This is sea water,” Shafer said.

Extreme high and low tides, known as king tides, play a role in coastal flooding. They predictably occur with an alignment of the moon, Earth and sun.

But now, with tidal levels creeping up an average of 0.107 inches — about the same as a slice of cheese — a king tide during a rain-producing storm can drive water levels up on low-lying islands by feet in worse-case scenarios.

In October 2017, Anna Maria experienced flooding due to king tides, with water to Gulf Drive from Sarasota Bay.

How much is the water expected to rise? And how accurate are the predictions?

NOAA projects by 2050 levels with calculations in the low, intermediate and high ranges beginning in the year 2000. The current graph includes:

  • Low rise: 0.79 feet or about 9.5 inches – best-case scenario.
  • Intermediate rise: 1.44 feet.
  • High rise: 2.56 feet — worse-case scenario.

The rise in sea level stands at 1.9 inches from 2000 to 2017. Longtime tidal gauges in St. Petersburg, monitored since 1950, are at historically high rates, rising about an inch a decade, and, in the past decade, showing signs of acceleration.

Shafer cautioned it has not been long enough to show statistical significance, but certainly merits watching.

What do all the numbers mean to islanders going about their business or living the dream by a sunny shoreline?

Using the height of the average woman, the low-rise number would put water levels at the bottom of her calf.

But if the worst-case scenario were to materialize, that same woman would be wading through water over the knees and almost to the hip in 2050.

        Next Week: What we can do, what’s already being done on the island and what Anna Maria Island and Egmont Key might look like in 2050.