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Date of Issue: January 07, 2009

Beach study to examine bayside sand

Residents of Anna Maria’s bayside living south of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s marker that separates the Gulf of Mexico from inland waters will not be included in the planned Manatee County beach renourishment project in 2011-12.

That’s because state and federal funds for the project are only available if the waterfront property is Gulf-side of the marker.

But there may be an alternative for badly eroded north-end bayfront homeowners to participate in some form of beach renourishment.

Manatee County director of natural resources Charlie Hunsicker explained that there is a separate process by which bayside properties might be renourished.

“The feasibility study for beach renourishment is one process,” Hunsicker said. The second process comes in two to three years when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers performs maintenance dredging of the Tampa Bay channel.

While Coastal Planning and Engineering of Boca Raton is performing the feasibility study for the county’s beach renourishment program, it also will look at Anna Maria’s bayfront to determine if that area might be compatible to accommodate the sand dredged by the Corps from Tampa Bay.

“We have asked [Coastal] to evaluate the bayside beach to determine if it would be compatible for sand from the Tampa channel,” Hunsicker said.

If it is, and, conversely, the sand dredged by the Corps from the Tampa channel is deemed “beach compatible,” then Hunsicker and Manatee County will make a request to the Corps that some of the sand be placed on Anna Maria’s north-end bayfront beach.

Hunsicker emphasized that the maintenance dredging of the Tampa channel is still two or three years away, Anna Maria’s bayside has to meet certain criteria for renourishment, and the sand dredged from the channel has to be “eligible” as beach renourishment sand.

Step one in the process for the eroded bayfront property owners is the feasibility study.

North Shore Drive resident Joan Dickinson, whose bayfront property has been battered the past decade by numerous storms, said that at least the county is making an effort to get the area renourished.

“It’s going to be a long struggle,” she said.

Mayor Fran Barford has given the affected bayfront property owners several options for renourishment, including a petition to the DEP to move the marker south or form a special taxing district to raise funds for renourishment.

The DEP marker is designated to differentiate “seaside” and “bayside.” Beach areas on the seaside are eligible for renourishment, while beach areas on the bayside of the marker are ineligible for state or federal beach renourishment funds, the DEP has said previously.

The Anna Maria bayfront, from about 200 yards north of the Rod & Reel Pier southward almost to Bayfront Park, is the only “bayside” inland waterfront in Florida that the DEP has termed “critically eroded.”

Dickinson said the best hope for renourishment is that the feasibility study shows the area in front of the affected homes is compatible for beach renourishment sand, and that the dredged sand from Tampa channel meets DEP criteria for beach renourishment sand.