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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Emergency beach renourishment project washing away

Prospects for an emergency beach renourishment project on Anna Maria Island appear to be going the way of the sand that disappeared along Island shores following four hurricanes this past summer.

Manatee County Environmental Systems Manager Charlie Hunsicker said last week he could not recommend to the Manatee County Commission that it proceed with an emergency U.S. Army Corps of Engineers renourishment project that could be up and running within two years because the Corps could not guarantee the quality of the sand.

Rather than dredging fine white sand as was done in the 2002 renourishment project, Hunsicker said the Corps is concerned only with "protecting the beaches," not in quality control.

"We could end up with just a lot of rocks and shells on the beach" from the Corps project, he told a group of Anna Maria North Shore Drive residents at a public meeting Dec. 2.

Beachfront houses between 751 and 763 North Shore Drive suffered severe beach erosion following four summer/fall hurricanes, and residents were hoping to "piggyback" on the Corps project to save themselves considerable expense.

While the beach renourishment would have been paid by state and federal funds, it would cover only those beach areas renourished in the 2002 project, Hunsicker said. That doesn't include the affected beach along North Shore Drive, but residents there were hoping they could pay the Corps to dump enough extra sand on the .6 mile Anna Maria portion to also renourish their stretch of beach.

Now, unless the county commission overrides Hunsicker's recommendation, that project appears dead in the water. But North Shore Drive residents still have options.

Under an emergency order from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, residents who lost beach can apply for an immediate permit to either build a seawall to protect their property or truck in sand from outside sources to build up the beach. Either way, they'll have to pay out of their own pockets, Hunsicker noted.

The DEP has waived the customary period for a permit, but all applications have to be filed by Jan. 15, 2005. Normally, a DEP permit takes about three years to process, Hunsicker said. Once a permit is approved, the applicant has until June 15, 2005, to build the seawall or bring in sand.

Another option, said Hunsicker, is that the residents can simply wait for the next beach renourishment cycle that will come in five to seven years and join that effort by signing appropriate easements for public access to the beach.

Disgruntled resident Joe Garcia was upset that the residents were getting no financial help from the county. Hunsicker suggested they take that issue to the city or county commission.

Likewise, resident Hank Varnum noted that he just got his quarterly tax bill from the county for $4,028. "I'm paying this kind of taxes and our sand is gone, so I'm not too happy with the county." He also observed that those North Shore Drive residents who opposed beach renourishment in 2002 are "long gone," leaving the current group to foot their own bill.

Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn said at the meeting she was sorry the project might be shelved. "It just didn't turn out the way I originally understood," she said.

While the city has no financial aid to offer the affected residents, SueLynn said the city will coordinate the application process for the residents.

Most of the residents favored the seawall approach. According to Rick Spadoni of Coastal Planning and Engineering in Boca Raton, the company that engineered the 2002 beach renourishment project, a seawall along that stretch of beach offers the best chance of retaining sand in front of the houses, but not on the other side of the wall.

Residents agreed to make their decision and get their applications to the mayor by Dec. 9.