Officials agree: No island community in the area is in more need of an emergency sand source than Longboat Key.
At a special joint meeting held Monday, April 20, at Bradenton Beach City Hall, barrier-island officials, Manatee County staff and West Coast Inland Navigation District (WCIND) officials discussed the district’s plan to dredge 30,000 cubic yards of beach-quality sand off the eastern shore of Jewfish Key, which will clear the waterway for boat traffic in that area.
After discussing the sand, everyone in attendance agreed that if the sand is usable, Longboat Key should have the sand to shore up its massive erosion at the North Shore Road beach access on the north-end of the island.
But there’s a problem.
WCIND Executive Director Chuck Listkowski said his district’s emergency dredging off Jewfish Key is in limbo because the Washington, D.C.,-based Army Corps of Engineers is trying to get a permit to do the work for which WCIND already has a permit. The Army Corps has not labeled the situation as an “emergency,” even though Listkowski says boaters have a tough time navigating that area.
Listkowski says $3.5 million of federal monies that his district helped lobby for is available for dredging near the Longboat Pass and Venice inlets, with $2.5 million slated for the Longboat area and $1 million earmarked for the Venice inlet.
But a frustrated Listkowski explained that there is no governmental mechanism in place that allows the Army Corps of Engineers to use WCIND’s permit.
“Basically, the Corps of Engineers is in the driver’s seat right now,” said Listkowski, who said it could take nine months for the federal organization to receive permits to do the dredging. “A mechanism needs to be put in place so the Corps of Engineers knows we already have a permit and that they are holding us up.
Washington officials told me that this is how the system works, but I refuse to believe that.”
Listkowski said that his district could perform the project immediately for approximately $1 million, which includes dredging the sand and using a barge to transport the sand to Coquina Beach on Anna Maria Island for future use.
Listkowski’s district only has enough money to do another “Band-Aid solution” like the 11,000 cubic yards of sand WCIND dredged off Jewfish Key two years ago, unless the Corps of Engineers relinquishes the funds to his district.
“But the Corps of Engineers wants to hydraulically pump the sand from the area of Jewfish Key to the site of its choosing,” said Listkowski, who was told by Army Corps of Engineers officials that it will cost $1 million alone just to mobilize hydraulic-dredging equipment onsite and more than $3 million in total.
Town Manager Bruce St. Denis explained to the 30 people in attendance that the sand situation on the north end of Longboat Key has worsened in recent weeks. This led the Longboat Key Town Commission to approve some emergency work just north of North Shore Road near 360 North condominiums, which has an eroding-dune system that could lead to eventual flooding of the units if erosion continues. The town will pursue a permit for a temporary plastic tube-like structure that could hold back erosion in that area.
“We have a dire need for sand right now,” St. Denis said, referring to the North Shore Road beach access closing two weeks ago. “We are interested and ready to move quickly.”
Barrier-island officials vented that the bureaucratic process takes so long.
Said Bradenton Beach Mayor Michael Pierce: “I have seen pictures of where those condominiums and buildings are located on Longboat Key and how no sand exists behind them. That looks like an emergency to me.”
Charlie Hunsicker, Manatee County’s director of Conservation Lands Management, told the group that, unfortunately, state officials wouldn’t deem it an emergency “until those buildings begin falling into the water.”
Listkowski urged local officials to work together to get the attention of their elected officials, who can hopefully change how the system works in Washington.
St. Denis explained that part of the reason why the town pays for its own beach renourishments is because of how long it takes to receive sand from the state.
Listkowski perked up when hearing the town pays for its own sand.
“If you want to pay for it, you can have it (the sand),” Listkowski said.
At the meeting, barrier-island communities agreed to act as a regional arm to help create more influence in Washington for the project, while urging the Army Corps of Engineers to work more quickly on the project.
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