Two years ago, Sarasota County consultants presented a comprehensive inlet management plan of New Pass and Big Sarasota Pass that suggested any sand dredged in New Pass in the future should no longer be shared with the town of Longboat Key.
The plan — created, in part, by town beach consultant Cliff Truitt of Coastal Technology Corp. and peer reviewed by town beach engineer Coastal Planning & Engineering — was the culmination of several years’ worth of research and more than $700,000 in consultant fees and costs.
That plan, which Longboat Key tax dollars helped pay for, stated that all future sand dredged at New Pass should be placed on north Lido Key.
Suffice it to say, the town wasn’t happy with the results of the study.
But, times have changed, and the town and Sarasota County have made up.
Sarasota County Coastal Systems Manager Laird Wreford explained at a joint meeting of the Sarasota County Commission and the Longboat Key Town Commission Monday in Sarasota, that any future dredging of New Pass would involve sharing sand with Longboat Key. It could happen sooner than later if the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers designates sand in the pass as a sand source. The county is currently working with the Corps of Engineers to get the federal channel authorized as a sand source.
“The two entities (Lido Beach and the town of Longboat Key) are in need of periodic renourishment and offshore sand sources have been depleted,” Wreford said. “It’s a logical solution for both the county and Longboat Key to work side-by-side while managing the pass and providing sand for its beaches.”
If the county is successful, the first round of sand dredged would most likely be placed on Lido Beach.
“In the past, sand has been shared between Longboat and Lido,” Wreford said. “If it’s impossible to utilize sand for Longboat this time, subsequent dredging would put sand on Longboat next time around.”
The county will meet with the Corps of Engineers later this month to discuss the results of a modeling study performed for New Pass; they will also discuss the dredging of the pass and the possibility of future sand sharing.
Longboat Key Public Works Director Juan Florensa has worked with county staff to bridge a gap when the original study didn’t favor sharing sand with Longboat Key.
“We avoided going down that path of not being sand partners and that’s a good thing,” Florensa said after the meeting.
Both the county and the town of Longboat Key also committed Monday to work together on other future beach renourishment projects, after Mayor Jim Brown explained it only made sense to share the cost of mobilizing dredging equipment. It costs approximately $2 million just to mobilize the equipment offshore each time a beach project is performed.
“Anything we can do to join hands and coordinate efforts can only help and be a tremendous benefit,” Wreford said.
Florensa said the town gets about 100,000 cubic yards of sand every time New Pass is dredged, noting that much of the sand sitting in New Pass and Big Sarasota Pass was paid for by Longboaters.
“That sand helps keep the southern end (of Longboat Key) healthy and it puts back our sand on our beaches,” Florensa said.
The town last received 100,000 cubic yards of sand from a dredging of New Pass in March 2003. A lack of Army Corps of Engineer funding for future dredging of New Pass has led to an accumulation of sand in the pass that’s created unsafe conditions for boaters in certain places where the sand is too high and boats can run aground.