The Sarasota County Commission voted unanimously today to find a third-party reviewer for the Lido Beach Renourishment project.
Laird Wreford, the county coastal resources manager, said that as staff has worked on this project, they also recommend a focus on addressing landowner uses and the user effect on South Lido Park.
The consultant would cost between $15,000 and $50,000.
Wreford said the third-party reviewer would not just be focusing on the technical aspects of the project; he also said the county should allow the more vocal and concerned members of the community to participate in the selection of areas that the county asked the reviewer to look at.
“The focus would be a collaborative effort,” Wreford said. If the community is continued to be included in the project, “they will not feel shut out. They have a voice in that and their concerns will be considered.”
Patterson said she was not comfortable with the recommendation and that staff and the reviewer would need to provide some reassurance to the community that taking the sand from Big Pass would not impact Siesta Key.
“A lot of people will breathe a sigh to hear that from someone else,” Patterson said.
The commissioner also wanted to be reassured that the navigational use of the pass would not be negatively affected by removing the sand and that nature would not be disturbed.
“Boaters are concerned,” Patterson said. “My instinct is that it would come out OK, but I know I would feel better if those three things were addressed.”
The recommendation to go forward to select a third-party reviewer passed unanimously with Patterson’s caveats about reassuring the community on impacts to Siesta Key, the environment and boat navigation.
“Having walked Lido beach, it’s in bad shape,” Patterson said. “It needs help.”
On Other Beaches
Wreford also gave a presentation to the staff on the South Siesta Key Beach Renourishment project. The serious shoreline erosion, especially at Turtle Beach, creates a time urgency with this project, he said.
The project may be eligible for state funding, but that money cannot be factored in until it is granted, he said. It will still be months before the state decides whether to grant the money, and staff recommended to continue on the timeline of starting construction in January — before turtle nesting season can start. The designing and permitting for the project is already underway.
Wreford presented an alternative plan of action: to proceed with getting required permitting but holding off on construction until the county learns if it receives funding.
This option removes tthe uncertainity about the state funds, Wreford said, but it adds more time and increases the amount of sand needed.
Because of the increase in demand for sand renourishment after Hurricane Sandy, the cost of a contractor to dredge the sand and renourish the beach has increased from the inital estimate of $11.5 million to $19.8 million.
Patterson suggested to go with the alternative plan, adding that the bid should be put out for a contractor so the commission could get an idea of how much a contractor would cost. The county could also decide if it wanted to wait a year for the demand of sand renourishment to decrease.
Commissioner Joe Barbetta also suggested staff look into increasing the percentage of the Municiple Service Benefit Unit funding (MSBU) in the beach nourishment fund. The MSBU is already factored into the county's beach renourishment funding cash. For South Siesta Key's inital nourishment, the MSBU contributed 17%, or $1.9 million. Barbetta supported exploring an increase to 19% or $3.8 million.
The commission approved the alternative recommendation with Patterson and Barbetta's additions.