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Date of Issue: June 24, 2009

At long last, sand

Beleaguered Anna Maria residents living along the bayside of North Shore Drive got some welcome news last week, even if it did take nearly eight years to reach them.

Catherine Florko of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection informed Mayor Fran Barford in mid-June that the shoreline between Bean Point and the Rod & Reel Pier is now considered “critical shoreline,” rather than “critical inlet shoreline” as the DEP had previously designated the area.

While it’s only a loss of one word, the new designation means that area is now considered a “critically eroded beach” and eligible for state and federal funding in the next beach renourishment cycle. Under the previous designation, residents in the affected zone could only expect city or county aid for renourishment, or pay for such an effort out of their own pockets.

There’s still a bit of red tape before the area is fully considered a critically eroded beach, Florko said. Affected local governments still have to review and comment on the proposed change before it can be adopted by the DEP.

The news was welcome relief for Barford, who has been working the past two years to find a way to fund renourishing the shoreline. She provided data on beach erosion in the area to the DEP that helped effect the designation change.

“I think it’s wonderful after all these years of trying to get some renourishment to that area. It took a long time, and there’s still a lot of work left, but people living in that area can look forward to having the beach restored in the next project,” she said.

North Shore resident Joan Dickinson first lobbied for beach renourishment in 2001 after a storm took what little beach was left at her residence and flooded her yard and house.

“It’s been a long time coming. After all these years. I really have to thank Mayor Barford for her help. She tried everything to get us some relief and this avenue worked,” Dickinson said.

Manatee County natural resources director Charlie Hunsicker said the county’s beach renourishment team would look at the area for inclusion in the next beach renourishment project, once the DEP officially lists the area as a critically eroded beach.

The next Islandwide renourishment project is not scheduled to begin until 2012-13, but planning is ongoing. The estimated cost of the project in 2008 dollars is about $16 million, but that does not include the newly designated shore.

Funding for beach renourishment comes from state and federal sources, while the county’s share is taken from the resort tax.