Questions over the intent and progress of the Beach Road Drainage Improvements Project took center stage at Thursday's Siesta Key Association (SKA) meeting.
Project Manager Alex Boudreau presented a breakdown of the project's goals and updated the SKA board on its progress. Boudreau said work has been stalled for nearly three weeks due to last month's heavy rainfall. Siesta Key received 11.95 in. of rain last month, compared with 1.95 in. in September 2012.
Boudreau said the heavy rains left standing water on the site that must now be treated before being pumped into the Gulf of Mexico.
"There's no place to put this water until we get the turbidity and the bacteria out of it," Boudreau said. "Hopefully by the end of next week, all the pumping equipment will be out there and we can get the water pumped."
Boudreau explained to the board and the approximately 15 residents attending Thursday's meeting that the intent of the project was to collect rainwater from a 40-acre drainage area, which includes the Siesta Beach parking lots and sections of Beach Road, and channel it into a 15-foot-deep retention pond. Overflow from the retention pond will be treated in ultraviolet light treatment units before being pumped 2000 feet into the Gulf of Mexico through an underground pipe, Boudreau said.
Following Boudreau's presentation, SKA board members raised several concerns, including a point of discrepancy between Boudreau's presentation and one made by Sarasota County Public Works Project Manager Brad Gaubatz at an Oct. 1 Siesta Key Village Association (SKVA) meeting. Gaubatz indicated to the SKVA that the drainage improvements would also help alleviate flooding on Beach Road during heavy rainfall.
The intent of the drainage improvements, according to Boudreau, is to treat stormwater runoff into the Gulf of Mexico to prevent beach closures — not to alleviate Beach Road flooding.
"We're doing this to avoid shutting down the No. 1 beach in America," Boudreau said, speaking about the drainage improvements.
Board members' concerns also included the need for backup generators for the pumps and possible measures to prevent bacterial contamination of standing water in the retention pond.
A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project to dredge Big Pass for Lido Beach sand was also briefly discussed Thursday. SKA Board Member Michael Shay said SKA had not yet taken a position on the controversial project due to a lack of details. The Army will present the project to SKA on Dec. 5.
"It's kind of early to make a decision on where anyone stands," Shay said. "Hopefully by December we'll have better information on the dredging and the groins, and then we can take a position."
Also discussed at Thursday's meeting:
• Sgt. Scott Osbourne from the Sarasota Sheriff's Office reported the presence of a small group of homeless individuals on Siesta Key. Osborne said the individuals had been observed sleeping on the beach, and they were likely responsible for at least one burglary on the island.
• Representatives of the Siesta Key Kiwanis Club presented a volunteer program for area residents to pick fruit from backyard citrus trees on Siesta Key. The fruit is given to the All Faiths Food Bank. Residents interested in volunteering to collect the fruit or offering to have their trees gleaned for the project can call 254-1944 or visit the project's website: http://www.glean4AFFB.com.
• Shay reported that the 2013 International Coastal Cleanup was a success. "The beach was amazingly clean," Shay said.
The next Siesta Key Association is scheduled for 4:30 p.m., Nov. 7 , at St. Boniface Church, 5615 Midnight Pass, Siesta Key.
Residents can call 364-4880 for more information.
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