The Siesta Key Association wants a fresh set of eyes to look at plans to dredge Big Pass.
SKA unanimously passed a measure Aug. 1 that allots $2,000 for an independent coastal engineer to review a study from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the city of Sarasota due Dec. 7.
“It’s a very tricky business,” said Peter van Roekens of the association’s board of directors. “When they did a similar dredge off New Pass, it damaged the channel.”
The proposed dredging project is meant to harvest sand from the pass to counter erosion on Lido Key.
Dredging could also make the inlet more navigable.
This would be the first time Big Pass has been dredged, and SKA is concerned with unknown consequences, such as how the proposed dredging project will affect navigation in Big Pass and impact Siesta beaches.
Van Roekens insisted the association’s move was not antagonistic toward the proposed dredging project, and he cautioned that it’s is too early to cast judgment on the project before more details are released.
“This is something we just need to be careful about,” van Roekens said. “The people doing the study are well qualified, but people other than those who proposed the study need to validate it.”
The plan to dredge Big Pass has a $17.5 million price tag, and the city will be on the hook for
$3.8 million. The rest will come from federal sources. The city’s contribution will come from Sarasota County Tourist Development Tax revenue.
County Commissioner Nora Patterson, who attended the association’s Aug. 1 meeting, said she was not in support of the project in its current form.
“I’m nervous about the groins,” Patterson said, referring to plans to build three erosion-control jetties at the southern stretch of Lido Key. The groins are intended to slow beach sediment’s southern drift and are included in the dredging plans.
“If you just took the groins out of the project, it probably would be OK,” Patterson said. “But the Army (Corps of Engineers) has said the groins are an integral part of the project.”
Sarasota County Coastal Resources Manager Laird Wreford said the presence of the groins could be problematic.
“When you put structures in a fragile and dynamic coastal system, you can have unintended consequences,” he said.
Save Our Sand, a group Siesta residents formed in 1993, blocked a city of Venice bid to harvest Big Pass sand. SKA stopped a similar proposal in 2007. Wreford said he expects the community to have concerns and that there will be plenty of opportunities for public discussion and input.
“The plan is to pull together all the modeling and be able to take it to the community to address concerns,” Wreford said. “So far, from what I’ve seen, they are indicating that there will not be negative impacts from the structures. Once they present their findings, then it’s up to the policy makers.”
Starting in September, the Army Corps of Engineers and the city of Sarasota will present their proposal to various community groups, including area boating groups and the county’s Coastal Advisory Committee.
The Army Corps of Engineers and the city of Sarasota will formally present their plan to the community Dec. 5, with a public meeting scheduled Dec. 7, at Sarasota Yacht Club.
The permit process is estimated to take two years, with construction beginning shortly thereafter.
Contact Nolan Peterson at [email protected].
IN OTHER NEWS
Other topics discussed during the Aug. 1 SKA meeting include:
• Noise complaints from the Turtle Beach campground.
• Trash concerns related to the Independence Day festivities.
• A proposed measure to allow low-speed vehicles on Siesta Key. There will be a meeting from 5 to 7 p.m. Aug. 20, at the Siesta Key Chapel to discuss the measure. Siesta Key residents are encouraged to attend.
• A nationwide propane tank recall.
• Sheriff Deputy Jason Mruczek responded to concerns about a trend in thefts at Siesta Key Beach. He advised residents to not take valuables, such as cellphones or wallets, to the beach.
• Siesta Key junior lifeguard coordinator Richard Hinkson thanked the association for its support of the program.
IF YOU GO
The next Siesta Key Association meeting is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Sept. 5, at St. Boniface Church, 5615 Midnight Pass Road, Siesta Key. Residents can call 364-4880 for more information.