Sarasota County officials will plan a meeting with members of the Bay Island Association before they proceed with seeking a Florida Department of Transportation permit to use FDOT right of way as a staging ground for removal of materials from Palmer Point Park on north Casey Key.
That right of way is on the mainland, just below the north Siesta Bridge. The project calls for up to 300 trucks to transport the material (unloaded from barges onto the right of way) to a Palmetto site owned by the contractor. The trucks would have to make left turns onto Siesta Drive, though Public Works Project Manager Paul Semenac said during the Oct. 6 Siesta Key Association meeting that flagmen would not be used; the trucks would have to pull out onto the road just as any other vehicle would from that site.
The offloading could begin Nov. 1 and continue through December, he said. If the county cannot complete the work by Dec. 31, it risks losing a $300,000 grant from the Southwest Florida Water Management District to help pay for about 50% of the construction-related expenses, according to Curtis Smith, also a project manager working on this initiative.
The SKA Board of Directors Oct. 6 approved a motion supporting the proposal for material from Palmer Point Park to be offloaded from barges at the FDOT right of way and trucked away, if FDOT grants the necessary permit. An FDOT official at the meeting indicated to Semenac that the department would expedite its approval of the request.
However, County Commission Chairwoman Nora Patterson, who lives on the north end of the Key, suggested Semenac hold the extra meeting with residents, because none of the SKA board members who voted lives near the work site, Semenac told the Pelican Press.
He hoped to schedule that meeting as soon as possible with Bay Island Association residents, he said.
SKA President Catherine Luckner explained before Semenac’s presentation that Palmer Point Park is adjacent to what once was Midnight Pass.
Semenac said the county is restoring the park. The southeastern portion of it was used as a spoil disposal site when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was constructing the Intracoastal Waterway by Siesta and Casey keys in the 1960s. The dredge material, he said, was cast onto a shallow portion of the bay, creating “spoil islands.”
The spoil material, he added, is primarily sand, shell and rock, with “a small amount of organics.”
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection must approve the contractor’s sediment management plan, he said. However, objections from two different neighborhoods had led him to propose the site just off Siesta Key for the offloading of the sediment from barges, Semenac said.
The barges would be pushed through the ICW to the FDOT right of way, he said, where an excavator would extract the material and put it in the dump trucks. “There will be no stockpiling of material on the site.”
The plan called for each barge to hold a hopper containing 20 yards of material, he added. However, if the contractor was able to use the FDOT site, Semenac said, it was likely that more than 20 yards could be accommodated per barge load.
Altogether, Semenac said, 6,000 cubic yards of material needs to be removed from the park. At a minimum of 20 yards per barge, he said, that would necessitate the use of 300 dump truck loads. The project calls for a 90-day timeline, he said.
By her calculations, Patterson said, that would mean about four trucks per day leaving the FDOT site. “So let’s say you only allocated 60 days for (the work),” she said. “That doesn’t sound so bad.”
Patterson added, “These figures are really pretty important in trying to evaluate whether this is going to be a mess or not.”
Patterson and SKA board members also raised concerns about the project extending into season.
Semenac said the use of the right of way would have to end before FDOT started preliminary work for the rehabilitation of the north Siesta bridge. That project is set to begin June 5, 2012. However, he said, it was even more critical to utilize the SWFTMD funding by Dec. 31. “They are not going to extend that (grant), I have been told.”
A restoration effort
For about 15 years, Sarasota County has been working on plans to restore spoil areas the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers created in the 1960s in the Intracoastal Waterway. Spoil islands resulted from vegetation growing up in materials dredged out of the waterway.
Non-native Australian pines and Brazilian pepper trees have become plentiful on the islands, according to county officials.
The first restoration project, on the southeastern section of Palmer Point Park, has been designed to improve water quality in that part of the bay, returning the body of water to the level of health it enjoyed before the ICW was created, according to Sarasota County Public Works Project Manager Paul Semenac.
Palmer Point Park is on the north end of Casey Key.
A contractor has been removing the exotic vegetation from an approximately 10-acre area of Palmer Point Park and burning it on site. The work was scheduled to be completed no later than Oct. 10, Semenac told the Siesta Key Association during its Oct. 6 regular meeting. The removal of the exotics began the first week of August.
Another part of the project calls for planting 5,000 red mangroves on the site, in the effort to return the area to wetlands. Those plants, Semenac said, would be either 1 or 3 gallons in size.