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Date of Issue: April 21, 2005

Island beach renourishment expected in June

The emergency beach renourishment project for Anna Maria Island planned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers should begin in June, Manatee County Ecosystems Manager Charlie Hunsicker told the Holmes Beach City Commission April 12.

Prior to the start of the project, however, Hunsicker needs permission from each of the three Island city commissions to allow heavy equipment on the beach and to operate around the clock. Hunsicker also asked the Holmes Beach commission for permission for the Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch organization to operate an ATV on the beach during renourishment.

While emergency renourishment is a Corps project, Manatee County is the local sponsor, Hunsicker said. That's why he's appearing before the various commissions for approval.

At the same time, however, Hunsicker pledged that the sand brought up will be the best sand possible and similar, if not the same, to the 2002 beach renourishment sand.

The Corps had originally proposed to just use the 2002 borrow pit for sand, but Hunsicker and Manatee County did a new survey of the bottom off the northwest corner of the Island.

"It's a good thing we did," said Hunsicker.

The survey found the sand had shifted considerably after four hurricanes passed through the area last year, and was not the same quality as it was in 2002. Hunsicker's study found a new, better area for sand and the Corps will supply that data and location to the contractor. The Corps will maintain a continuous watch on the sand quality during dredging operations and will shut down the dredge if the quality drops below Hunsicker's standards.

The emergency beach renourishment, which will bring about 400,000 cubic yards of sand to Island beaches, is funded entirely by the federal government, he said. There will be 14 other emergency beach renourishment projects in Florida this summer, he added.

By contrast, the 2002 project dredged about 1.2 million cubic yards.

Hunsicker said Corps engineers have said the contractor will be selected by mid-May and construction will begin around mid-June.

After spending about two weeks to mobilize equipment on the Island and the beach, the contractor should only take about 10 days to dredge and spread the sand. "They'll be out of here quick," he promised.

Hunsicker noted that for the .6 mile Anna Maria City portion of the renourishment, he and marine engineers will monitor that portion of the project as that area is 90 percent funded through Manatee County and the state. Anna Maria will only require about 35,000 cubic yards of sand.

The Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach portion of the project will extend from the northern Holmes Beach city limits south about 5.6 miles to Fifth Street South in Bradenton Beach.

Renourishment became necessary after four hurricanes swept through the area last year, eroding Island beaches faster than anticipated following the 2002 renourishment project.

Hunsicker also asked the commission that Turtle Watch be allowed to use an ATV on the beach during the project as turtle nests may have to be moved quickly to avoid interference from the equipment and people involved in the renourishment project. The city had allowed an ATV on the beach during the 2002 project, he said.

Manatee County has a $25,000 contract with Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch to oversee turtles and hatchlings during the April 1 to Oct. 31 turtle nesting season this year.

Commissioners agreed to consider the two requests at their next regular meeting on April 26.