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Date of Issue: September 10, 2008

Gustav damages seawall, creates North Shore lake

Go with the gusto
The seawall in the 860-870 block of North Shore Drive in Anna Maria was damaged by waves generated when Hurricane Gustav passed some 300 miles from the Island. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

Anna Maria residents whose property suffered beach erosion damage or the loss of a seawall from the passing of Hurricane Gustav might wish they lived within the .6 mile portion of Anna Maria beaches that will be included in the next renourishment project.

Being outside that zone appears to leave Joe Zambito, the owner of the property at 869 N. Shore Drive, out of luck.

Waves generated by the hurricane tore through the seawall at his property and people were forced to haul in sandbags to prevent damage to the house. Neighboring homes also were affected by the storm, and these owners also brought in sand bags and sand. Those seawalls bore up under the brunt of the waves.

While efforts to reach Zambito were unsuccessful, resident Joan Dickinson at 865 N. Shore said she barely escaped serious damage from the storm.

“There was a lava flow of sand and water that extended around my home, flooded my driveway and yard. Luckily, my seawall held,” she said. She had recently added a large amount of sand around her property — before the storm — that helped prevent any major damage or loss, she said.

Dickinson purchased her home in 1998 and the seawall does not appear to be one of the original walls that some believe may have been constructed in the 1930s.

North Shore Drive resident Tom Turner, who has been coming to Anna Maria since the early 1950s, and a resident since the 1960s, said the seawall at the Zambito property and similar ones on North Shore “have always been there. No one was ever sure who put them in, or when.”

But Dickinson has more issues with the city than just her seawall. She blames the city’s recently completed drainage project for contributing to the “lake” that surrounded her property during the storm and subsequent rainfall.

The North Shore Drive-Gladiolus drainage project “is a failure,” Dickinson said. She noted that as early as 2006 she sought to determine where swale water from the project would go, but the engineer for the project told her that impact studies of that kind were “too expensive.”

“This gross mismanagement of taxpayer dollars is inexcusable,” Dickinson said, adding that she had told the city in 2006 that the system would be “ineffective.”

While Dickinson was lucky, Zambito may have to replace his seawall.

According to a recent vote of the Manatee County Commission, only the .6 mile portion of beach near the Sandbar Restaurant in Anna Maria that was part of the 2002 renourishment project will be included in the renourishment cycle to begin in 2011-12. That excludes North Shore Drive, although the northernmost beach area and bayfront is considered “critically eroded” by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Manatee County Natural Resources Department director Charlie Hunsicker included several Anna Maria beach areas identified by the DEP as “critically eroded” when he presented the renourishment project to the commission in May, including the beach in front of the Dickinson and Zambito properties.

County commissioners, however, decided the budget only has enough money to renourish those areas that were included in the 2002 effort.

Many Anna Maria beachfront property owners opted out of that project by declining to provide easements and those areas are now are ineligible for state and federal renourishment funds that supplement the county’s funding for the project.

But all may not be lost for Dickinson and Zambito.

Dickinson said she contacted U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan’s office and was told that some Federal Emergency Management Agency funds for “hazard mitigation” might be available to rebuild any damaged seawalls. Buchanan’s local telephone number is 941-708-4968.

In addition, Anna Maria Mayor Fran Barford said she will continue to push for a meeting with county commissioners regarding beach renourishment, and she’s got an ally in some members of the Tourism Development Council, including Sandbar owner Ed Chiles and Holmes Beach City Commissioner Sandy Haas-Martens.

The TDC will hold a November workshop to discuss potential funding sources to pay for renourishment of the worst erosion on Anna Maria beaches.

Hunsicker said he’s also pushing for a November city-county commission meeting prior to the TDC workshop.

On another positive note, Hunsicker said he’s aware of available funding for the portion of Anna Maria denied sand by the county commission, but he would “prefer to wait until everyone is available and present at a meeting” before discussing those options.

If the Anna Maria beaches considered “critically eroded” are included in the next renourishment project, the cost for the entire project has been estimated at $16 million.