Manatee County Commissioner Joe McClash has an issue with a proposed plan to have the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredge the authorized boating channel in Longboat Pass.
When the Army Corps of Engineers, in an attempt to save federal money, said this summer it was going to allow Longboat Pass to naturally drift closer to the north end of the island, the town disagreed with that plan.
Town officials believe allowing a channel that’s drifting closer to the north end of Longboat Key to continue on its path will have damaging erosion effects in an area that already needs an interim beach project.
So when Manatee County, the town of Longboat Key and the West Coast Inland Navigation District agreed that the Corps of Engineers needed to dredge the original channel, all parties began signing off last month on a resolution that urged the Corps of Engineers to do the job.
But it appears everyone is on board but McClash.
On Sept. 28, McClash was the only commissioner who voted against signing the resolution.
McClash said the resolution, which requests the Corps of Engineers “to restore navigational safety,” implies a fear that McClash, an avid boater, doesn’t believe exists.
An engineer for the West Coast Inland Navigation District formerly reported the meandering channel already existed and that there is no need to dredge the authorized channel.
“There’s not a navigational issue in that pass,” McClash said at the September county commission meeting.
But Town Manager Bruce St. Denis said McClash is referring to an older engineering study and noted that the West Coast Inland Navigation District now supports dredging the original channel further away from Longboat Key.
At the Sept. 28 meeting, Charlie Hunsicker, director of Manatee County’s natural resources department, referenced a background memo that states: “Numerous adjustments to the channel marker system have been made by the U.S. Coast Guard, but users of the pass are experiencing uncertainty and danger and potential property damage when navigating the pass.”
Hunsicker also pointed out that the county and Longboat Key would benefit from dredging the original pass.
Further bolstering the town’s stance, St. Denis points to a regional study presented by the WCIND that states the channel’s more southern route is causing the erosion of Beer Can Island.
The town is currently working on a $125,000 Longboat Pass Inlet Management Study that’s being performed in the next 12 months. Town officials hope the study will reveal why the channel is moving southward and what needs to be done to stop the island’s north end erosion.
If the Corps of Engineers doesn’t bow to the county and the town’s wish to have the channel dredged, both municipalities reserve the right to pay for the project and use the dredged sand as a potential source for its beaches.
Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected].