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Wednesday September 17, 2003
"The Best News on Anna Maria Island Since 1992"


Renourished beach disappearing

Some areas of Anna Maria Island's recently renourished beach are disappearing faster than marine experts predicted, and in at least three locations, there's less than a 60-foot width at high tide.

The beach area between the Gulf Drive Cafe and the Beach House Restaurant in Bradenton Beach has only about 20 feet of beach left at high tide, and a 3-foot high escarpment has developed in front of the Beach House, further restricting the amount of usable beach.

Other areas where the beach has been reduced to 60 feet or less are at 31st Street in Holmes Beach and, ironically, in front of the Sandbar restaurant in Anna Maria.

Both the Sandbar and Beach House are owned by Ed Chiles.

Proponents of the beach renourishment project, including marine engineer Rick Spadoni of Coastal Planning and Engineering in Boca Raton, had predicted the renourished areas would have between 100 and 125 feet of beach following normal wave action. The renourishment project added about 200 more feet of beach along the Island in the renourished areas when it was completed in May 2002.

Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch Director Suzi Fox has been walking the beach for more than a decade and began to notice a loss of beach at the Sandbar and Beach House in April 2003 when turtle-nesting season began.

"There's something different going on with the beach in those locations that I've never seen before," she said. "Even the other volunteers have noticed the beach loss."

While many locations along the beach add or reduce sand according to waves and currents, those locations have continually lost sand since Turtle Watch volunteers began walking the beach daily in search of turtle nests.

"We've been watching the sand disappear for the past few months. Soon, you'll be seeing the rocks again," Fox predicted. "I've seen beaches come and go, but these areas don't seem to be coming back.

"And we really haven't been hit with any serious storms since renourishment."

Fox said in her view, the beach was not sloped properly in the affected areas when it was renourished.

"Nothing like this happened after the 1992 renourishment project," she claimed.

Some areas of the beach, however, seem to have gained sand, Fox noted.

The beach area north of the Sandbar restaurant, which was not renourished, seems to have increased, as has the beach north of the Gulf Drive Cafe and south of the Beach House.

"It's very unusual," Fox said. "There just seems to be something wrong."

No, there's nothing wrong, said Spadoni. His company handled the marine engineering aspects of the beach renourishment for Manatee County and is under contract to continue monitoring the beach.

"That's how some sections of the beach will act," he said.

"Most likely, there is a sandbar offshore from those two locations that is causing the movement. We should see the sand secrete back onto the beach this fall," Spadoni claimed. He said the beach areas north and south of the Beach House restaurant area are doing "quite well" and have a large amount of sand.

He also noted that the Beach House is built closer to the water than other nearby structures.

"I'm really not concerned. This was expected in some areas," said Spadoni. "The last beach survey done a few months ago showed the beach was performing as expected."

But if Manatee County officials believe there is a problem, Spadoni and company will look for a short-or- long-term solution.

"We've not been contacted by Manatee County for any immediate inspection," he said, and the next scheduled beach inspection by Coastal Engineering is not until summer 2004.

Manatee County Ecosystems Manager Charlie Hunsicker said he's aware of the two locations on the beach, but the loss of sand is "not cause for concern at this time. We just have to continue to monitor the situation.

"While it appears significant, it's nothing we didn't expect in some locations. If it continues to worsen to the point of extreme concern, we'll take action on it right away," he said.

He noted that except for a few areas, the remainder of the renourished beach still has plenty of sand, in some cases much more than 100 between the water's edge and the vegetation line.

Chiles said he was glad to see officials are aware of the beach loss.

"We did lose a lot of beach after the last storm, but we're hoping it ebbs and flows, and I believe it will come back. We're still better off than before beach renourishment when the water was up against the rocks," he said.

The 2002 beach renourishment cost about $9.8 million and was paid for with county, state, and federal funds.

The county portion of the project came from the 3 percent tax on rental accommodations collected by the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau to promote tourism.

Great Lakes Dock and Dredge Co. from Chicago did the 2002 renourishment, the same company employed in 1992-93 for Island beach renourishment.




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