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Date of Issue: April 02, 2008

Anna Maria bayside beach renourishment derailed

Waves lap at the shoreline along Anna Maria’s bayside, just north of the Rod&Reel Pier. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has said the area is "critically eroded," but not eligible for any state funding for beach renourishment. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

Anna Maria residents living on the northern bayfront between the Rod & Reel Pier and Bean Point likely feel like they’ve been slapped in the face by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Just weeks after saying that the shoreline in that area is “critically eroded” and eligible for state beach renourishment cost-sharing funds when the next project begins in 2011-12, the DEP last week reversed its position. It now claims it has no authority to fund beach renourishment in that area because it’s not on the Gulf of Mexico.

In a March 13 letter to Manatee County Conservation Lands Management director Charlie Hunsicker, Catherine Florko of the DEP said she had failed to research the issue adequately when she e-mailed him in February that the DEP could cost-share in this area.

She said that Florida law “limits our ability to cost share on beach erosion projects by requiring that they front on the Gulf of Mexico.”

Although the DEP agrees that this area is “critically eroded,” she said there is “confusion” regarding the extent of the Gulf of Mexico’s shoreline. The shoreline between the Rod & Reel Pier and Bean Point is in the “confusion” zone and, thus, not eligible for DEP cost-share funding.

Florko even noted that senior engineering staff have agreed this “inlet shoreline is critically eroded and directly affected by Gulf wave activity.”

The DEP maintains the marker identifying the dividing line between the Gulf of Mexico and inlet waters is several hundred yards north of the Rod & Reel Pier.

“I sincerely apologize for any confusion caused by my e-mail,” Florko concluded.

Florko’s letter does not affect other beach areas of Anna Maria already designated by the DEP as eligible for beach renourishment funds. Those areas include Bean Point and a section of beach near the Sandbar Restaurant.

Hunsicker said that at this point, the only available funding option to renourish the affected area would be from the city itself, or in a joint effort with Manatee County. The county, he indicated, is currently more focused on funding and renourishing the areas already designated for cost-share funding. The estimated cost of the Anna Maria portion of the 2011-12 project is $7.5 million, exclusive of any renourishment of the disputed area.

Anna Maria Mayor Fran Barford was disturbed about the DEP’s change of position, but acknowledged that her main focus for the 2011-12 beach renourishment project has to be to work with the county on those areas already identified by the DEP as eligible for cost-share funding and renourishment, not the questionable area.

“I have to get our regular beaches renourished first, then we’ll see if we can come up with a plan for that area,” she said.

The mayor said she will encourage homeowners in the affected area to contact their state and national elected officials for assistance.

That still leaves Joan Dickinson of 865 N. Shore Drive in Anna Maria watching the not-Gulf of Mexico waters slowly erode her not-on-the-Gulf-of-Mexico shoreline.

Dickinson has long championed the cause of homeowners in this area with eroding shoreline and had believed that her efforts, along with those of former Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn and Barford, had finally paid off when the DEP identified this area as “critically eroded.”

“Now, they’re saying it’s critically eroded, but not on the Gulf of Mexico, but an inlet,” said Dickinson. “What is the definition of inlet? My question is how have they defined what is on the Gulf and what isn’t because they can’t even find the map designating where the Gulf of Mexico begins.”

Dickinson said she won’t give up the fight, but will contact state Rep. Bill Galvano and state Sen. Mike Bennett for help.

“I want the DEP to produce the map,” she said, adding that there is a map somewhere at the Anna Maria City Hall that she has seen that designates that the Gulf of Mexico begins at the Rod & Reel Pier, not Bean Point.

The affair is bordering on the absurd, she added.

“I’ll be sure and call the DEP for help when my house slides into the Gulf of Mexico,” she quipped.