Turtle Beach was hit by the effects of Hurricane Hermine in 2016, causing erosion.
Trucks full of sand is not a new sight for residents of Sarasota County, but it is one that could be repeated on Turtle Beach within the next four years.
In early June, county commissioners unanimously approved an initiative that would help fill in shoreline eroded by Hurricane Hermine in fall 2016.
South Siesta Key originally was restored through an offshore dredging project in 2006. The second nourishment was completed in May 2016, but Hurricane Hermine affected the project area in September 2016.
Rachel Herman, manager of the county’s environmental protection division, said the hurricane disrupted much of the new sand and left the beach in need of another renourishment.
In the past few months, Herman said there has been a “scalloping effect” along the beaches, where certain points of the beach have eroded more quickly than others.
In 2017, the Federal Emergency Management Agency awarded the county a federal grant to address damages from Hermine. At that point, the county planned to defer the storm damage repair until the next planned renourishment of the area in 2026.
Since then, however, FEMA has proposed an interim truck haul project, which would help the county accomplish the renourishment sooner.
The estimated cost of the renourishment is $68 per cubic yard. With just more than 92,500 cubic yards planned, the project would cost approximately $6.3 million. The county would contribute 12.5%, or $787,537, with the remaining balance reimbursed by the state and FEMA.
The actual amount FEMA will pay the county depends on FEMA’s assessment of the cost after the project is complete. The first FEMA money is expected in the 2022 or 2023 fiscal year.
Herman said the truck haul project would be beneficial for the county because the cost associated with an offshore dredging project to accommodate for 92,505 cubic yards of sand would be “unreasonable.”
In 2016, about 2 miles of shoreline was restored with dredging from three offshore areas. New sand then totaled just more than 713,500 cubic yards.
Pursuing the new project would allow the county to delay its overall restoration of the area until 2028, which would give the county’s beach renourishment fund the opportunity to build back up, Herman said. The fund, which is largely funded by the county’s tourist development tax, will soon be depleted by a significant renourishment project on Manasota Key Beach that was completed in April.
Commissioner Mike Moran said he would be happy to support the project.
“This is just an absolutely great example of leveraging the local taxpayer’s dollars for state and federal money, and any opportunities we ever get like this are an incredible return on investment,” Moran said.
The larger renourishment project will extend north from Turtle Beach Park and Turtle Beach Campground and south to Palmer Point Park. The shorter, truck haul project will focus on the south end of the project area because it has seen the greatest losses from Hurricane Hermine and subsequent erosion.
The project will disrupt Turtle Beach from November through December 2024.
“It’s still not going to happen tomorrow,” Herman said.
Even still, commissioners were happy to see the project move forward. Commissioner Alan Maio said his first constituent meeting after his election to the board in 2014 was with South Siesta residents who were advocating for the second renourishment.
“Apparently, the glue that you’re using in the sand isn’t working very well,” Maio joked. “It’s a lesson for all of us that this will never end. This will just keep going on.”