With sand on the north end of the island disappearing at an alarming rate, the Longboat Key Town Commission agreed unanimously to move forward with a $6.2 million sand-and-structures project at its Monday, Sept. 24, regular workshop.
Commissioners reviewed several alternatives for the north end of the island that included doing nothing, building two groins to hold sand or building three groins to keep a beach in the area.
After spending a year analyzing the town’s options, Town Manager Dave Bullock told the commission he recommended moving forward with the construction of three groins — two permeable, adjustable-type groins near North Shore Road on town property and a non-adjustable groin that would stick out into Longboat Pass on Manatee County property to keep sand from flowing north into the channel and into Sarasota Bay.
Bullock noted that as far back as the town’s 1995 Beach Management Plan, groins for the north end of the island have been labeled a priority.
“There is a longstanding policy about using beaches to protect property and some types of structures that are needed for the north end of the island,” Bullock said.
To prove his point, Bullock displayed a variety of comparison pictures of the north end, showing how sand on the north end of the island and Beer Can Island has disappeared as recently as a few months ago after Tropical Storms Debby and Isaac passed through the area.
“If we do nothing, the north end near Beer Can Island will be gone,” Bullock said. “It literally makes that beach disappear over time.”
Bullock explained how water came dangerously close to 360 North condominiums during both Debby and Isaac.
“Those storms caused the elevation of the beach in that area to go down, and at high tide now there is no visible dry beach in this location,” Bullock said. “With the slightest amount of storm surge now, there’s water just about up to the buildings there.”
Doing nothing would also cause Beer Can Island to eventually break away from the north end of the island, also cutting off tidal flow to a nearby lagoon. Sand would also have to be placed on the north end every year if no structures are built.
Bullock explained that adding groins, even just two groins on Longboat Key property near North Shore Road, means the Florida Department of Environmental Protection will require the town to be responsible for the shoreline all the way to Beer Can Island, even though it’s listed on the tax rolls as Manatee County property.
Bullock said he will hold a future discussion with the Manatee Board of County Commissioners and ask for help funding the beach project in this area.
Once the structures are in, sand from Longboat Pass will still need to be placed on the north end every four to eight years. Over a 20-year period, sand placement will cost the town anywhere from $4 million to $7.5 million.
“I am concerned for continued erosion and the likely impact to upland properties,” Bullock said. “My recommendation is we continue with our effort to get permits for construction of three groins.”
Commissioner Pat Zunz and the rest of the commission agreed the project has to be done.
“We are surrounded by water, and I feel it’s part of our public policy to say we need to protect everything we have,” Zunz said. “I don’t see how we don’t do that to our fullest ability.”
The town’s voters already approved a $16 million beach project in March 2011, and the town will use that voter-approved money to pay for the future project.
If permitting is complete by early 2013, construction on the groins could begin as early as spring 2013.
Beach Project Conclusions
Building no erosion-control structures on the north end of Longboat Key would result in:
• Eventual narrowing of the beach from the North Shore Road seawall to the north end of Beer Can Island.
• 360 North condominiums continuing to see over-wash and/or wave action during storms.
• Water overtaking all or part of the Australian pines and mangrove areas of Beer Can Island.
• The sand spit under Longboat Pass Bridge continuing to grow, blocking tidal flow in the lagoon along North Shore Road buildings.
• The current public beach access at North Shore Road eroding away, with a permanent closure and elimination of that beach access likely.