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Date of Issue: February 27, 2008

DEP agrees to extend beach renourishment boundary

Help at last
Anna Maria resident Joan Dickinson watched these waves splash against and over the seawall at her North Shore Drive residence just north of the Rod & Reel Pier several years ago. The area is now eligible for beach renourishment under the Florida Department of Environmental Protectionís critically eroded shore guidelines. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

For the dozen or so Anna Maria residents living along North Shore Drive who have seen their property erode into Tampa Bay the past five years, there’s finally some good news,

Just two weeks ago it looked like those property owners would once again be shut out of future beach renourishment projects.

But Florida Department of Environment specialist Catherine Florko told Manatee County Conservation Lands Management Department director Charlie Hunsicker last week that the DEP could “cost share on work beyond the designated monument ranges.”

Florko said that on Hunsicker’s urging, she had discussed the erosion in the area just north of the Rod & Reel Pier with other DEP specialists and they have agreed the area is “critically eroded” and eligible for renourishment.

That means that the planned 2011-12 Anna Maria beach renourishment project that was projected to terminate a few hundred yards north of the Rod & Reel Pier can now extend farther south to encompass the sands in front of the waterfront houses that were excluded from renourishment in 2002, and not scheduled to be included the next renourishment project.

“This is good news,” said Anna Maria Mayor Fran Barford after learning of the DEP’s decision.

Good news indeed because the city and county had tried desperately to include houses in the affected area in the project, but had believed they would be shut out because the structures were located south of the R-1 monument which designates where the Gulf of Mexico - and DEP renourishment - begins.

The new renourishment area includes the home owned by Joan Dickinson, who has battled erosion and saltwater intrustion on her property since at least October 2002.

Fact is, were it not for Dickinson’s refusal to accept the “status quo,” she and other affected homeowners might never have benefited from the DEP’s offer.

When Hunsicker spoke to the city commission Feb. 12 about the 2011-12 renourisment project, he told Dickinson that her property was outside the marker that designated the beginning of the Gulf of Mexico - at least what the DEP considers the Gulf.

But Dickinson challenged Hunsicker and Barford to not accept what the DEP said and ask them to resurvey the area to pinpoint the R-1 marker. Hunsicker agreed and was pleasantly shocked by the DEP reply.

“This is truly surprising and outstanding news for us and those in Anna Maria whose homes have been threatened and lives consumed with worry,” he said.

“Thanks to her and the rest of the city commission, we did get this surprising good news,” noted Hunsicker. “The state has opened the door to a solution and funding assistance.”

The Anna Maria City Commission agreed whole-heartedly at its Feb. 12 meeting to support the 2011-12 renourishment effort along city shores and will work to secure the required easements and parking spaces.

Dickinson was ecstatic that her home and others in the area are now eligible for beach renourishment and thanked Barford, Hunsicker and the Anna Maria City Commission for backing her efforts and the 2011-12 project.

“I’m excited and just so thankful that the mayor and Charlie followed my suggestion. It’s an example of government agencies working together to help people. Now, I won’t have to worry about my home sliding into Tampa Bay,” she added.

Planning for the 2011-12 Islandwide renourishment has already begun, with the 1.5 mile Anna Maria portion - without further beach areas added - expected to cost about $7.5 million - in 2008 dollars. The project will be funded by state and county sources, including the “bed tax” collected by accommodation owners of rental units.