Manatee County plans $4.9M Longboat Pass jetty upgrade

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A Manatee County Marine Rescue division worker orders two people walking in the water near the 60-year-old Longboat Pass Inlet jetty to leave the water. The jetty juts from the bridge into the Gulf of Mexico at the southern tip of Anna Maria Island and the current in the pass creates dangerous conditions for people. Islander Photo: Terry O’Connor
Longboat Pass and the jetty in Bradenton Beach, looking northeast toward Cortez. Islander File Photo: Jack Elka

The weathered 60-year-old jetty that runs from the base of the Longboat Pass Bridge to the Gulf of Mexico at the southern tip of Anna Maria Island is showing its age.

It looks like an old railroad track, but the rotted wood on the jetty gives the metal spikes less purchase to hold the 500-foot concrete-and-lumber structure together.

The jetty needs fortification, said Charlie Hunsicker, director of Manatee County parks and natural resources, in applying for funding from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Hunsicker said it’s time to rejuvenate the jetty. It is failing to prevent sand from Coquina Beach at the south end of Bradenton Beach from entering Longboat Pass.

The jetty’s primary purpose is to prevent sand from sifting into the navigational path at the pass, which results in limited inlet access to boaters from shoaling and increases the need for costly dredging.

The project will cost an estimated $4,875,000 and take six months to complete sometime in 2019, according to the funding request.

Outgoing Bradenton Beach Mayor Bill Shearon said he learned of the jetty funding request from a TV newscast.

“I need to know more about it before I know whether I’d be for or against it,” Shearon said. “It hasn’t been brought up in any meeting I’ve attended.”

The request estimates construction will cost $4.6 million and designs will cost $275,000.

The state would pay $3,656,250 and the county would pay $1,218,750, according to the request. Manatee County will use tourist development tax revenues to pay its share, Hunsicker said.

Shearon said he has concerns about who’s footing the multimillion-dollar bill for the jetty upgrade and how communication about the project is being handled.

“They’d have a whole lot more support if the officials were advised about it rather than hearing it on the news,” Shearon said. “Also, assuming that figure is right, $5 million is a lot of money.”

Shearon said the pass can be dangerous.

“When the current goes through there, it really goes through there,” Shearon said. “There’s been a couple of deaths there.”

Permitting could take a couple of years. In the meantime, Longboat Key is talking about becoming an all-Sarasota County isle, Shearon said.

“I would hate to see Manatee County pay for all of that if Longboat Key goes Sarasota County,” Shearon said. “That’s another factor.”

An example of the proposed jetty upgrade can be found about 50 miles south at the Venice jetties, where the rebuild comprises large rocks with a wide path on top, a popular vantage point for sunbathers and anglers alike.

By contrast, signs on the Longboat Pass jetty warn against walking on the rickety structure.

The Anna Maria Island shoreline extends between Florida Department of Environmental Protection monument R-1 at the north end of the island and R-41 at the south end. The entire AMI shoreline has been classified by the DEP as “critically eroded.”

Estimated costs have held steady since it was anticipated in the 2015-16 Manatee County fiscal budget that repair or replacement of the jetty would occur in 2017-18 with the state providing nearly $3.5 million.

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