The beach was as bright as a football field under Friday night lights as the bulldozers shoved, sculpted and shaped the sand in the second stage of a major Island renourishment project.
Midway through last week, Great Lakes Dredge and Dock, an international dredging contractor, shifted its work zone north, from Coquina Beach to the shore in Anna Maria near the Sandbar Restaurant.
The operation, which has involved multiple onshore crews as well as crews offshore on 10 vessels strategically placed in the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay, continued to operate around the clock in Anna Maria.
“We are on schedule,” Chris Pomfret, the project manager for Great Lakes, said April 15. The Illinois-based company also has renourished shores in San Diego, Ocean City, Md., and Fire Island, N.Y., as well as overseas, including a complex project in Ghana.
Late April 14, after hauling pipes and other equipment — from potable water tanks to port-a-potties to pipes — to Anna Maria, Great Lakes began pumping sand and water to the beach south of the Sandbar.
The operation continued through the night, drawing the occasional dog-walker, insomniac or curious onlooker.
“They said they’ll be done in 48 hours,” Ray Hansen said with a note of disbelief. He and his family were staying in a nearby vacation home.
“Believe it or not, this is the second time I’ve seen this,” he added. “My vacation cycle is the same as the renourishment schedule.”
The spring 2011 renourishment, with a budget of about $6 million, was in planning and permitting for some years.
The actual renourishment activity, contracted by Manatee County and engineered by Coastal Planning and Engineering, began April 2.
During the first half of the month, sand was pumped to much of Coquina Beach, which had undergone serious erosion in recent years, especially on the north end.
By last weekend, the work at Coquina was ending, with some finer beach-sculpting taking place and the removal of the renourishment pipes, Pomfret said.
Equipment used in Anna Maria was to be hauled back to Coquina for temporary storage, but “we’ll be out of there probably by the middle of the week,” Pomfret estimated.
When the Great Lakes team leaves, it will leave behind about 25,000 cubic yards of sand on Anna Maria beach and 206,000 cubic yards of sand on Coquina Beach.
“Good, clean and white sand,” said Charlie Hunsicker, director of the Manatee County natural resources department, which has overseen the project.
Later this year, in the next stage of the project, the county plans to contract for construction of an artificial reef off Coquina Beach, as well as the installation of a geo-thermal tube around the jetty on the north side of Longboat Pass.