The two permeable adjustable-type groins built behind the Islander Club in May 2010 are doing their job — some would argue too well.
Before the groins were built, there was virtually no sand behind the Islander Club, and Gulf water lapped up to the condominium’s seawall near the pool area.
Almost three years after the $1 million groins were installed, a beach that’s more than 30 feet wide sits behind the Islander Club, and beachgoers can walk for hundreds of feet into the Gulf in a wide variety of different sandbars that sit offshore in the water.
“There is no question about it; you can see beach accumulation,” said Public Works Director Juan Florensa Monday morning from the top of the Islander Club’s roof. “They (the groins) are slowing the drifting of sand from the north to the south.”
But are they working too well?
The groins slow the constant movement of sand from north to south to bring sand to an area that’s sand starved.
“The sand that used to blow by the Islander Club and make a wide beach to the south now stays put,” Florensa said.
But Villa Am Meer, Villa di Lancia and en Provence condominiums to the south, which had a wide beach before the groins were installed, have virtually lost all of their beach.
The sand loss is so great to the south of the groins that Florensa is trying to obtain a project permit as part of this summer’s beach project to place 90,000 cubic yards of sand in the 2300 block of Gulf of Mexico Drive, all the way to Seaplace.
Florensa called the loss of sand south of the groins “a typical down drift groin signature footprint that can be modified by putting sand there to restore the beach.”
But the problem has frustrated some Key residents, many who noticed the sand loss almost as soon as the groins were installed.
Paul Bowman, president of en Provence Condominium Association in 2010, sent a two-sentence letter to the town of Longboat Key dated May 20, 2010, that stressed the need for assistance.
Wrote Bowman: “The installation of the two new groins at the Islander Club has resulted in 50% of our beach being lost. Please advise what action you plan to take in order to correct the situation.” Board members from en Provence could not be reached as of press time for this story.
Florensa said the groins, which are adjustable in terms of controlling the sand flow, were modified once, but he doesn’t recommend further modifications at this time.
In May 2010, former Town Manager Bruce St. Denis tried to assuage residents’ concerns, saying it would take at least a year for the beach to equilibrate.
That hasn’t happened, but Florensa said filling in the beach in an area that used to get an additional 45,000 cubic yards of sand per year before the groins were installed will help.
Some residents, meanwhile, are worried the structures are not helping the Key’s overall shoreline and question whether three more groins will help or hurt the shoreline on the north end of the Key.
“Give the beach a chance to recover by itself and let Mother Nature and the owners of beachfront properties recreate the silky, white sands we had back in pre-renourishment days,” wrote County Club Shores resident Bradford Saivetz in a letter to the Longboat Observer this week.
Islander Club resident and Vice Mayor David Brenner said he wonders if the groins “were overadjusted” when they were adjusted about a year ago to compensate for the loss of sand to the south.
“In principal, the groins have worked the way they should,” Brenner said. “My hope is the sand we put down there doesn’t all wash away.”