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Date of Issue: December 03, 2008

Long haul for bayside renourishment

“It’s a huge project,” Anna Maria Mayor Fran Barford told homeowners along North Shore Drive and South Bay Boulevard interested in beach renourishment to protect their properties from future erosion.

The mayor met with affected homeowners Nov. 24 to present options and to get the process started to renourish their properties with federal dollars or their own efforts.

The city has no money for private beach renourishment, Barford told the homeowners. Because the affected waterfront property is not considered “sea side” by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, those areas are ineligible for state or county funding in the Manatee County beach renourishment project expected to start in 2011-12.

What little sand there is on the bayfront at the homes between the Rod & Reel Pier and Bean Point is privately owned. That also knocks those homeowners out of the ballpark for other state funding. In addition, the marker indicating where beach renourishment can begin — what the DEP calls “open sea” — is about 200 yards north of the Rod & Reel Pier.

According to the mayor, the DEP said this is the only critically eroded bayside area along Florida’s coast.

But all is not lost.

Barford presented the group with three grants that could lead to funding. Two of the grants require matching funds, while the third, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers grant of up to $3 million per project, does not require a matching contribution.

The task to obtain a USACE grant, however, is formidable. The city would have to fund an engineering study of the affected shoreline, then submit the grant application. The Corps has $30 million annual funding for the entire nation under this grant program, Barford said.

She added that the homeowners have to also start lobbying their state and federal representatives about their predicament.

“These are all things we need to do to try and understand the problem. We need to explore all opportunities and lobby our legislators,” she said.

The group will get a chance to lobby U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Sarasota) when it meets again Jan. 26. Barford said she plans to have either Buchanan or someone representing him at the meeting to hear their story.

She’ll also have Florida Department of Environmental Protection representatives at that meeting to discuss where the marker is that separates “sea side” from “bay side.” Barford said the DEP will discuss how to change the marker.

Other options for funding include forming a special taxing district along North Shore Drive and South Bay Boulevard, but that’s a long and complicated step, according to Barford. She said city attorney Jim Dye would make a presentation on that process at a future meeting.

“Everything is a lot to take in, but it’s a start,” Barford said.

North Shore Drive resident Jo Ann Dickinson, whose beach area has been washed away by wave action from several storms over 10 years, thanked the mayor for providing the information and pushing the effort.

“We have a long way to go,” Dickinson said.