The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to allow Longboat Pass to naturally move closer to the north end of the island — but town officials are not happy.
The Longboat Key Town Commission voted to oppose the project at its Monday, May 3 regular meeting and told Town Manager Bruce St. Denis its members will show up en masse at a West Coast Inland Navigation District (WCIND) meeting May 10 to voice their concerns.
St. Denis told commissioners that he’s been worried for years about the pass’ tendency to move south.
To save money, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has not dredged the original, authorized boat channel in the center of the pass since 1997.
And, in December, St. Denis and Commissioner Robert Siekmann were alerted at a WCIND meeting that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in conjunction with WCIND, wanted to dredge 200,000 cubic yards of sand that follows the path of the more southward-moving channel that has formed from a lack of dredging.
“The caveat I had in endorsing this decision is we do not know what the impacts are of this southerly migration closer to Longboat Key,” St. Denis said.
And, St. Denis told commissioners that a regional study presented by WCIND states that the channel’s more southern route is causing the erosion of Beer Can Island.
“It’s my recommendation we urge them to move forward with a project that dredges the authorized channel as opposed to what’s migrating closer to the south,” St. Denis said.
Charlie Hunsicker, Manatee County’s director of conservation lands management, told the commission he is also concerned about the pass’ migration.
“The authorized channel alignment provides the least impact to both the north and south shores of the pass,” Hunsicker said. “It’s surprising to me a report shows the pass’ migration to the south is causing erosion and then (WCIND) agrees to let it happen.”
St. Denis and Hunsicker told the commission the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was likely searching for the most cost-effective solution.
If the authorized channel were dredged down the center of Longboat Pass, several hundred thousand cubic yards of sand and sediment would need to be dredged.
Said Hunsicker: “I know the Army is looking for the most cost-effective solution, but it may not be the most cost-effective solution for Longboat Key and Manatee County.”
The commission voted 5-2 to support the town manager’s recommendation, with Commissioners David Brenner and Lynn Larson opposing it, because there was no emphasis placed on the fact that a critical part of what happens to the pass will be the result of a $125,000 Longboat Pass Inlet Management Study being performed.
The town hopes the study will reveal in the next 12 to 24 months why the channel is moving southward and what needs to be done to stop the erosion issues that face the north end of the island.
St. Denis did not want the study to be tied into his direction because he believes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is already trying to permit the dredging project, needs to do something to maintain the navigation channel as soon as possible.
Brenner, however, said he’s concerned if the pass is dredged, it will render the study moot.
Contact Kurt Schulteis at email@example.com.
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