Tag Archives: Feature

Beach washout evident, renourishment planned

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Bradenton Beach’s southernmost groin, created an escarpment, revealing a rope and bollards — part of a divider that protected the dune from being trampled by people. Islander Photo: Courtesy David Herrmann

The beach will have to endure another hurricane season, but the Gulf of Mexico shoreline on Anna Maria Island will be renourished in 2019.

Hurricane and storm season runs May 1-Nov. 31.

Charlie Hunsicker, director of the Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources Department, said in an interview Jan. 8 that two renourishment projects, spanning 5.4 miles of beachfront south from 79th Street in Holmes Beach to Longboat Pass, are in the works for 2019.

Beginning in November 2019, the first project will bring sand to the shoreline from 79th Street to Fifth Street South in Bradenton Beach.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will pay for 54 percent of the project, with supplemental and emergency funding appropriated from the U.S. Congress to counteract erosion caused by Hurricane Irma in September 2017, according to Hunsicker.

The state and Manatee County will split the remaining costs of island renourishment at 23 percent each.

Hunsicker said he expects the project to total $16 million.

“As a result of Hurricane Irma, we have a full year-and-a-half to two-year head start on addressing what would have otherwise been the erosion due to this last storm,” Hunsicker said. “If we had a completely healthy beach and observed these erosional losses, and then started the process today, it would take us at least another year-and-a-half to get to where we are right now.”

The cost of the second project will be split between the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Manatee County and the state of Florida, with FEMA covering 75 percent and the state and county sharing the remainder.

The project will span the shore from Fifth Street South to Longboat Pass and cost about $4 million, according to Hunsicker.

“We hope to piggyback on the contractor that the army engineers will be using, so instead of stopping at Bradenton Beach and packing up and leaving, they can stay right with it and keep on going under a separate and independent contract to do the Coquina Beach segment, and thereby save substantially in local and state dollars,” Hunsicker said.

Mobilization costs for large beach renourishment projects can range from $4 million-$6 million before the first shovel is turned, according to Hunsicker.

In total, the projects would replace more than 700,000 cubic yards of sand lost to erosion and cost around $20 million. Hunsicker expects the work to last three-four months.

The sand will be dredged from a sandbar offshore of the northern end of Anna Maria Island and pumped in pipes to the renourishment area.

Hunsicker said a dump truck can load up to 10 cubic yards of sand at once, and to meet the project requirements would require 70,000 truckloads — an effort that would cost significantly more than dredging and pumping the sand.

A couple of recent storms have furthered the erosion caused by Irma.

Bradenton Beach resident David Herrmann said erosion is apparent north of the groins at Cortez Beach and is within 10 feet of a multiuse path that stretches from Cortez Beach to Coquina Beach.

“I’ve seen this beach come and go for 30 years and this is probably about the worst I have ever seen it,” Herrmann said in an interview Jan. 8.

While he isn’t concerned the erosion will impact his property, he is worried for the multiuse path and utility poles west of Gulf Drive.

“If we have another storm like we just had, it’s going to cut back even more, and the path will collapse. There’s no doubt about that,” he said. “It’s a concern that will become a problem if we get two more storms like those that came through a couple weeks ago. If we get a hurricane, it’s gone.”

Hunsicker said beaches on the Gulf lose 10 feet in depth and width every year due to “an aggressive wave climate that actually has the effect of pulling the sand off the beach, like grabbing a bedspread off of your bed and pulling it onto the floor.”

To counteract the erosion, renourishment projects replace the lost sand so that the Gulf doesn’t eat farther into the beach.

“We put that sand out there, fully expecting it to be sacrificed under very heavy storm conditions,” Hunsicker said. “Rather than farther upland.”

Additionally, groins can help preserve and build upon the existing beach, as they trap sand moving down the beach via the drift current by slowing the sand and changing its direction.

“The new groins (in Bradenton Beach) kept the footprint of the sand in place,” Hunsicker said. “We didn’t lose that much sand there around the groin.”

Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie agreed, saying that “in effect, with the recent storms, the groins and the dune system did exactly what they were supposed to do: protect infrastructure.”

Suzi Fox, director of the Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring, told The Islander erosion would have no effect on sea turtles or shorebirds while nesting is in its off-season, but would need to revisited when sea turtles begin nesting in May.

“It’s nothing new,” Fox said Jan. 8.

“Historically, that sand comes and goes. We’re a barrier island. That’s just going to happen.”

Trolley driver recovers girl’s plush pet, missing backpack

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Addison McGoey hugs Rudolph, her cherished toy buffalo, Jan. 12 on its return to her in New Jersey. Islander Photo: Courtesy Theresa McGoey
Patricia Adams drives an island trolley. Islander Photo: Courtesy MCAT/Keven Sheerin

It’s a tale of a damsel in distress, a hero and a happy ending.

It starts with the McGoey family of New Jersey as they wind up their holiday on Anna Maria Island Jan. 2, piling their belongings into the back of a rental car.

En route to the airport, already in Bradenton near U.S. 41, they noticed the tailgate was open and 12-year-old Addison McGoey’s backpack, containing Rudolph the buffalo, a stuffed animal and her constant companion, was missing.

It was important enough to send the family back to the island on a search.

They circled back, retracing their route to where they began in Anna Maria at Elm Avenue, but they had no luck.

In spite of their efforts, Rudolph and the black backpack were not found.

Enter island trolley driver Patricia Adams. She was driving her route that day when she spotted a black backpack on the side of the street near Ginny’s and Jane E’s Coastal Store and Bakery Cafe.

Adams stopped the trolley and picked up the backpack to put in the lost and found, thinking a rider might claim the item. She also started to do a little investigating.

“I looked up the local Craigslist lost and found and there it was,” she told The Islander. “So, I called the number and made arrangements about sending it back.”

Adams has been driving for Manatee County Area Transit for 12 years, spending the past two years on the trolley loop.

“She is one of our very best drivers,” Kevin Sheerin, MCAT supervisor in the trolley division, said Jan. 10 of Adams.

He said Adams was nominated for state operator of the year in 2018 and would be nominated again.

The McGoey family was thrilled by her extra effort, and the return of the much-loved Rudolph.

Mom Theresa said Addison was facing the probability she would never see Rudolph again. The toy was a gift at age 3, and she towed it everywhere.

“She maintained her composure until we got home to New Jersey. Then I think it hit her she might never get it back. When I got the call from Adams, I sent Addison a text,” McGoey said.

“I’ve never seen so many Os, Ms and Gs,” McGoey said.

“When I picked her up from school, she was all smiles,” she continued.

This was not the first time Rudolph was lost. In 2011, on another vacation, the furry buffalo got lost at the White House during the Easter egg roll on the South Lawn.

“He fell out of my purse,” McGoey said. “We told Addison Rudolph must have had some important business with the president. We found him in the White House lost and found.”

McGoey surmised, maybe he just likes to strike out on adventures of his own.

Rudolph and the backpack arrived by UPS Jan. 12 at the McGoey home in Summit.

“I told my daughter, there are a lot of good people out there,” McGoey said. “This just proves it once again.”

AME PTO — students, community — look forward to Dolphin Dash

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Gabriella Gilbert of Anna Maria Elementary pushes for the finish line Jan. 14, 2017, at the AME-Parent-Teacher Organization Dolphin Dash. Gabriella was the first-place winner in her 9-and-under female division. This year’s dash will be Jan. 19. Islander File Photo: Karen Riley-Love

Enthusiasm for the 13th annual Dolphin Dash has Gabriella Gilbert running laps.

The 5K race and 1-mile fun run at Anna Maria Elementary School is Saturday, Jan. 19. Gabriella, a fifth-grader at AME, has been training by running laps around the school basketball court during recess and rising early to exercise at home.

Her mom, Lindy Gilbert, president of Lux Carts, at 309 Pine Ave., Anna Maria, said her daughter has participated in the run every year since kindergarten.

“She absolutely loves running and loves the opportunity to give it her best — to give it her all,” Gilbert said in an interview Jan. 10. “It’s really great to see that.”

Competitiveness drives Gabriella to participate, and her zeal drives her mom to run.

“She always wants mommy to run with her, and then she leaves me in the dust,” Gilbert said. “I’m usually bringing up the rear with all my friends.”

Whether finishing first or last, Gilbert said it is impossible not to have a good time at the event.

“I haven’t found another group activity that just makes you feel so good!” she said. “Everybody cheers you on. Everybody comes together. You always seem to perform better than your fears make you think you might. It’s all positive, and I wish everyone on the island could share in the experience because it is wonderful.”

Principal Jackie Featherston said in an interview Jan. 7 that she is excited for the race, and will enjoy it from the sidelines.

“I don’t do the run,” she said. “Mostly I help with the setup and stuff like that. I’ll do whatever needs to be done to keep it running smoothly.”

The event, coordinated by Kelly Gitt and supported by the Bradenton Runners Club, will benefit the AME Parent-Teacher Organization.

Nichole Teich, president of the PTO, said in an interview Jan. 11 the race is the third-biggest annual fundraiser for the organization, behind the fall fest and spring gala.

The race will be Jan. 19, with registration at 7 a.m. in the south parking lot at AME, 4700 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach.

The 5K will begin at 8 a.m. and the 1-Mile Fun Run will start at 9 a.m. After the race, awards will be presented and every participant will receive a race swag bag.

“Just come and be there and go for it,” Gilbert said. “It’s all good. Even if you walk or if you get cramps, everybody is cheering you on and rallying around each other. Honestly, I don’t see how anything negative could come from it. Whatever happens, it’s going to end up being positive and as a really great memory for everyone.”

For more information, visit runsignup.com/race/fl/holmesbeach/dolphindash5kand1milefun.

License-plate reader contracts clarified, approved in Holmes Beach

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Thomas Thanus, acting city attorney in Holmes Beach, reviews contracts Jan. 8 for a license-plate reader system during a city commission meeting at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive. Islander Photo: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes

The contracts have been clarified and Holmes Beach is cruising toward a license-plate reader system.

The city commission Jan. 8 authorized Mayor Judy Titsworth to execute an agreement for reader equipment from contractor Vetted Security Solutions of St. Petersburg and a second agreement for software with Vigilant Solutions of Livermore, California.

In November 2018, the commission approved the system, not to exceed $105,240, but questions remained regarding the contracts with the two companies and the cost. So the contracts were reconsidered Jan. 8.

Attorney Thomas Thanus, filling in for city attorney Patricia Petruff, clarified the difference between the Vetted and Vigilant contracts.

He said Vigilant is the software creator and provides support for the system and it works closely with Vetted, which provides hardware and installation.

The city will pay Vetted $105,240 upon completion of the project. There is no payment the first year to Vigilant — it is included in the Vetted fee, according to Thanus.

Upon the second year of operation, the city will pay Vigilant an annual licensing fee of about $2,625 each year, which includes $525 for five cameras.

The attorney said the contract could be terminated at any time and that it is a sole-source contract, piggybacked on the Longboat Key and Manatee County, which operate the same system.

“It’s very important for the police department to be able to communicate and share information with those other law enforcement agencies,” Thanus said.

Commission Chair Jim Kihm realized some attachments were mixed-up in the copy provided to commissioners, so he asked for a clean copy of the updated contracts with clarifications between the responsibilities and costs for both companies.

The mayor and commissioners moved the vote to the end of the meeting to allow time to read the updated contracts.

Thanus said the software fee with Vetted could increase each year, but annually caps at 4 percent.

Commissioner Kim Rash said he’d like Vigilant to provide a five-year spreadsheet detailing what the increases in cost are each year.

“”I’d like to see that so we know what kind of money we are going to be spending,” he said.

Thanus said the annual increase would be about $110 at most and, in a previous conversation, Police Chief Bill Tokajer said he would include the increase in future budget requests.

At the end of the meeting, the updated contract was distributed to the mayor and commissioners, and a vote was taken.

A motion for the mayor to execute the contracts with Vetted and Vigilant passed 4-1, with Rash voting “nay.”

The next city commission meeting will be at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22, at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive, to be followed by a work session.

Federal investigation of copter crash hits delay

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Duke Overstreet of Sea Tow, center, who oversaw recovery Jan. 4 of a helicopter that crashed in the Gulf of Mexico Jan. 2, and two other men note damages to the copter after it was brought earlier in the morning to the Coquina Beach South Boat Ramp. The helicopter was recovered at about midnight Jan. 3 about a mile offshore of Anna Maria. Islander Photo: Kathy Prucnell
Sea Tow Bradenton owner Duke Overstreet talks to the media Jan. 4 about his crew’s recovery of helicopter wreckage from the Gulf of Mexico. Islander Photo: Kathy Prucnell
The helicopter that crashed in the Gulf of Mexico Jan. 2 with three people aboard approximately a mile offshore of Anna Maria is readied for transport Jan. 4 at Coquina Beach by Sea Tow Bradenton and Ben’s Crane Service of Bradenton. Islander Photo: Kathy Prucnell

The federal government shutdown is reverberating on Anna Maria Island.

Answers to why Sarasota pilot Stanley Lee crashed Jan. 2 in the Gulf of Mexico about a mile from the Anna Maria shore — sending Lee and photographer Tom McKnight to Blake Medical Center in Bradenton — appear to be delayed due to the shutdown.

As of Jan. 4, Lee was reported in serious condition, improved from a critical status.

McKnight, who spoke to The Islander Jan. 6, was treated and released, said he’s feeling very sore but thankful.

McKnight was shooting video and stills of a boat for a manufacturer’s promotion, when water rushed into the helicopter.

“We were flying close to 50 minutes and had done multiple passes in the bay,” he said.

According to Robert Smith, director of Manatee County Public Safety, the helicopter was flying 10-15 feet above the water level before the crash.

“I really don’t know what happened. We were flying normal and then we were not,” McKnight said, adding he then submerged and realized he was hooked on something.

“Honestly, I thought that was it,” he added, saying he felt no panic.

Somehow he became unhooked, he said, came to the surface and saw the other men who had been in the helicopter also had surfaced.

Lee, McKnight and the third man in the chopper, Peter Bowden, boarded the boat they had been filming.

As a 911 dispatcher was directing the boaters, the U.S. Coast Guard from station Cortez met them with a 29-foot boat and crew.

The Coast Guard crew rendered first aid and escorted the boat to the Coquina Beach South Boat Ramp in Bradenton Beach. From there, a Manatee County EMS ambulance transported Lee and McKnight to

Blake. Bowden, saying he was not badly injured, refused EMS transport.

All civil aviation accidents undergo investigations by the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration, according to the NTSB website.

However, FAA public affairs officer Gregory Martin wrote in a Jan. 3 email there were no plans to begin an investigation of the helicopter crash.

An auto-email response Jan. 3 from Kathleen Bergen, FAA public affairs officer for the southern region, states, “Due to the lapse in government funding, I am not working.”

A similar message was delivered by an officer with the NTSB who answered the phone, but declined to give his name as a spokesman.

Meanwhile, local officials were fielding questions about the crash.

Manatee County Sheriff’s Office public information officer Randy Warren wrote in Jan. 3-4 emails that the FAA and NTSB were notified but an investigation had not begun, adding the FAA “may or may not follow up.”

Sea Tow Bradenton recovered and delivered the 2,500-pound Robinson R-44 helicopter, registered to Sarasota Helicopter Services, to Coquina Beach Boat Ramp for transport to Jacksonville.

Duke Overstreet, owner of Sea Tow Bradenton, said he and a crew, including a diver, found the copter in 25 feet of murky water at about midnight Jan. 3

Found among the retrieved helicopter were a professional video camera, a backpack and wallets.

The crash was first reported at 10:53 a.m. by one of the people in the vessel that was being photographed.The boater told the 911 dispatcher, “We’ve got multiple injuries. We’ve got a guy with his ear torn off. It’s bad. He’s got half an ear cut off and he’s choking blood.”

The dispatcher advised treatment and directed the boater to the boat ramp, remaining on the line until they were met by the Coast Guard vessel.

An MCSO Marine unit, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers, and Longboat Key and Sarasota police departments assisted in the rescue.

McKnight, a guitarist with a rock band, The Verge, said he’s not looking at life the same since the crash.

Noting he lost his cellphone and video camera, McKnight said, “None of that matters.”

“That first gulp of air I took is the same air we all breathe,” but, he said, taking a breath again reinforced his belief in peace, love and helping others.

There were some reports that four people were aboard the helicopter when it crashed, but McKnight dispelled that rumor.

“There were three of us” on the chopper, he said. “Maybe the fourth was the angel.”

McKnight added that his band will play for a celebration of life for the crash survivors Friday, Jan. 18, at Stottlemyer’s Smokehouse in Sarasota.

Holmes Beach fights suit filed over treehouse fate, fines

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Owners of the treehouse built in an Australian pine on their beachfront at 103 29th St. in Holmes Beach have been fighting city hall for eight years to retain the structure. Islander Photo: Kathy Prucnell

A new chapter has opened in the long-running saga of the treehouse owners.

In this new effort, a petition from the owners dredges up matters already in court or decided at trial and in appeal.

That is the Holmes Beach view of the new case opened in 12th Circuit Court by treehouse owners Lynn Tran and Richard Hazen, according to motions filed Jan. 3 by attorney Jim Dye, of Dye, Harrison, Kirkland, Petruff, Pratt & St. Paul, for the city.

Dye filed motions to dismiss, to request a more definite statement and to strike the owners’ petition for a temporary injunction.

Dye criticized the owners’ petition in his filing, describing it as “a free-flowing attempt unconnected to a proper lawsuit to enjoin the city from doing undescribed actions.”

The owners’ filed the petition pro se — without an attorney — in mid-December, asking the court to end the daily fines and prevent the demolition of the treehouse. It names the city and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection as respondents.

The DEP was served Dec. 20, 2018, but had not responded as of Jan. 4.

In 2016, the city ordered Tran and Hazen to remove the treehouse and comply with the land-development code, imposing a fine of $50 a day as of July 22, 2015.

The owners’ petition states that some $65,000 in “illegally excessive and unfounded” fines have accumulated, but they are seeking to halt the fines going forward, not the accrued fine.

Asked about whether she will seek to reduce the accumulated fine, Tran said Jan. 4 that “For now,” she is not asking to have the fine forgiven. “I will eventually.”

Tran and Hazen built the treehouse in 2011 without permits required by the city and state for the beachfront property 20 feet west of 103 29th St., where they live and operate short-term rentals known as Angelinos Sea Lodge.

An anonymous tip to the city about beachfront construction resulted in a referral to the DEP and the city refused to waive its 50-foot setback.

Tran and Hazen have brought a number of challenges related to their treehouse through attorney David Levin of Icard Merrill of Sarasota.

Prior litigation included city code board appeals as well as a bid to allow a citywide vote on the fate of the treehouse, which the owners took to the U.S. Supreme Court. The court declined to review the case and allowed the trial court decision to stand.

In addition to owners’ new petition, there are two pending treehouse actions in the 12th Circuit Court.

In February 2018, the city filed a case seeking to enforce the 2016 city magistrate order.

And a 2013 challenge to the constitutionality of the city’s setback rule was reinvigorated in 2018 by Levin before it was set by the court for dismissal due to inactivity.

The opposing motions in the code enforcement case are coming up for a hearing before Judge Lon Arend after press time Jan. 8.

Red tide threatens, tracking hindered by government shutdown

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A cell of Karenia brevis, the species responsible for red tide. Islander Photo: Courtesy Mote Marine Laboratory

The coming and going of red tide remains as much a mystery as Mother Nature.

No solutions have been found.

But the cause of people coughing and complaining of scratchy throats on the beaches of Anna Maria Island Jan. 4- 5 was no mystery — red tide was back.

“It’s the cough again,” Maria Steffens said by phone Jan. 5.

Steffens is night manager at the Anna Maria Island Beach Cafe at the Manatee Public Beach, 4000 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach.

“The other day I noticed that smell. Now there is no smell, only the dry, hacking cough again. I’ve been coughing since I got to work at 2 p.m.,” Steffens said. “I noticed it yesterday afternoon.”

Tiffany LaRocca reported similar conditions in Bradenton Beach at the Beach House Restaurant, 200 Gulf Drive N.

“It’s the itchy throat and the cough,” she told The Islander Jan. 5. “We enclosed the outside seating. At least there is no smell.”

Neither location reported seeing dead fish on the beach.

The federal government shutdown that began Dec. 22, 2018, cut off access to the University of South Florida’s topical oceanography lab, which provides data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

So researchers at Mote Marine Laboratory and other government agencies as of Jan. 7 were relying on first-hand observations and samples to determine red tide’s presence and make forecasts about the harmful algae bloom.

According to Mote, a boat captain reported coming across a dense patch of phytoplankton, took a sample and brought it to the Sarasota lab Jan 2.

The sample, found about 2 and l/2 miles off the Sarasota County coastline, contained high concentrations of Karenia brevis.

Meanwhile, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission concentration readings, which the previous week had been clear for Sarasota County, showed high concentrations of K. brevis near Siesta and Lido Keys.

FWC readings in Manatee County remained clear, with no red tide detected in daily samples or in the Jan. 2 midweek report.

Samples showed no K. brevis at Longboat Pass in Bradenton Beach, the Rod & Reel Pier in Anna Maria or the Palma Sola Bay Bridge on Manatee Avenue in Bradenton.

Mote’s daily reports on beach conditions showed no signs of red tide Jan. 4 at Coquina Beach or at Manatee Public Beach in Holmes Beach.

A late December storm, that brought 10-foot waves to the Southwest Florida coastline, apparently broke up part of the K. brevis bloom and swept some of the toxic algae far offshore.

Now, however, it appears red tide is creeping back to the coastline.

Coyote strolls Marina Drive

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A coyote saunters along Marina Drive near Key Royale Drive in Holmes Beach Dec. 30, 2018. Coyotes usually are active at night, but daytime sightings on the island have become more common since summer 2018. Rick Scherrer of Anna Maria spotted the coyote while on an afternoon bike ride. “We ride our bikes a lot and were really surprised to see that coyote just standing in the driveway in broad daylight,” Scherrer wrote Jan. 2 in an email to The Islander. “We have spotted him up at our end, but only late at night. He/she is mighty bold!” Islander Photo: Courtesy Rick Scherrer