Questions about the intent and progress of the Beach Road Drainage Improvements Project were the hot topic at the Siesta Key Association’s (SKA) Oct. 3 meeting. Project Manager Alex Boudreau gave a presentation on the drainage improvements to the SKA board, breaking down the project's goals and providing an update on its progress. Boudreau said work has been stalled for nearly three weeks due to last month's heavy rainfall. Siesta Key received 11.95 inches of rain last month, compared with 1.95 inches in September 2012. Boudreau said the heavy rains left standing water on the site that must now be treated before being pumped into the Gulf of Mexico.
"There's no place to put this water until we get the turbidity and the bacteria out of it," Boudreau said. "Hopefully by the end of next week, all the pumping equipment will be out there and we can get the water pumped."
Boudreau explained to the board and the approximately 15 residents attending last week’s meeting that the intent of the project was to collect rainwater from a 40-acre drainage area, which includes the Siesta Beach parking lots and sections of Beach Road, and channel it into a 15-foot-deep retention pond.
Overflow from the retention pond will pass through ultraviolet-light treatment units before being pumped 2,000 feet into the Gulf of Mexico through an underground pipe, Boudreau said.
Following Boudreau's presentation, SKA board members raised several concerns. Most pressing was a point of discrepancy between Boudreau's presentation and one by Sarasota County Public Works Project Manager Brad Gaubatz at an Oct. 1 Siesta Key Village Association (SKVA) meeting. Gaubatz indicated to the SKVA that drainage improvements would also help alleviate flooding on Beach Road during heavy rainfall.
The intent of the drainage improvements, according to Boudreau, is to treat stormwater runoff into the Gulf of Mexico to prevent beach closures — not to alleviate Beach Road flooding.
"We're doing this to avoid shutting down the No. 1 beach in America," Boudreau said, speaking about the drainage improvements. “I’m not aware of any potential impact on Beach Road flooding.”
Boudreau said he would report back to SKA once the issue had been clarified.
Board members' concerns also included the need for backup generators for the pumps and possible measures to prevent bacterial contamination of standing water in the retention pond.
Boudreau said an aeration system was not included in the project’s plans, and that natural ultraviolet radiation would prevent the contamination of the retention pond’s water.
A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project to dredge Big Pass for Lido Beach sand was also briefly discussed Thursday. SKA Board Member Michael Shay said SKA had not yet taken a position on the controversial project, due to a lack of details. The Army will present the project to SKA Dec. 5.
"It's kind of early to make a decision on where anyone stands," Shay said. "Hopefully, by December, we'll have better information on the dredging and the groins, and then we can take a position."
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