Just about all Longboaters have heard about the severe erosion on the north end of the island and the importance of a sand project being performed there right now. But the south end of the Key has its own eroded beach that’s in need of some sand and attention.
Town Manager Dave Bullock informed the Longboat Key Town Commission at its regular meeting Monday night at Town Hall that he’s formulating a plan to restore sand to a 3,000-square-foot area of lost beach from L’Ambiance north to the beach behind Longboat Key Towers.
“The area has lost the majority of its dry beach,” Bullock said. “There’s little to no recreational beach because of the erosion.”
So much sand has been lost that at high tide, Gulf water laps at 7-foot beach escarpments that are being kept in place by large areas of vegetated dunes. The wall of sand is revealing roots from the dunes as the sand escarpment continues to brace for high tides. The wall of sand also makes it difficult for beachgoers to get to the shoreline from their condos.
Public Works Director Juan Florensa told commissioners the loss of more than 25,000 cubic yards in the area can be attributed to Tropical Storm Debby, which sat in the Gulf for days wreaking havoc off Longboat Key’s shore in summer 2012.
“Because of Debby causing problems and taking away sand from other parts of the Key, there’s a lack of sand flowing from north to south,” Florensa said. “We also must remember we haven’t placed sand in this area since our last beach nourishment in 2005.”
Bullock said he’s considering an emergency sand project for later this year that would involve thousands of dump truck trips bringing sand from inland areas of the state to the beach.
Total costs for the project are estimated between $1.4 million and $1.7 million. Town staff would tap into a $5 million beach fund to pay for the project. Staff would also make an application for reimbursement for the project because of Tropical Storm Debby’s impact in the area.
“I will come back in the fall for you to make a decision at that time to move forward with the project or not after you see the costs involved,” Bullock said.
If the project is approved and state permits are received in a timely manner, Bullock said the project could begin in November.
“I want to warn you that a couple thousand trucks in the winter coming onto and off the Key all day for 10 hours a day will be noticed,” Bullock said. “It will be a conga line of trucks driving onto the beach with sand.”
All seven commissioners gave Bullock permission to move forward with the design, permitting and bidding for the project to get actual costs. It will cost approximately $180,000 to perform that preliminary work.
“This seems like a no-brainer,” said Mayor Jim Brown. “We have to protect the dune vegetation and properties in this area.”
Bullock noted that in two years, he expects to have an agreement in place with the city of Sarasota for a sand-sharing agreement and a permit to dredge New Pass, which will bring more sand to the south end of the Key.