OK, so it’s not exactly Snowpocalypse 2016. But for officials dealing with sand loss, the Key’s cold fronts are no day at the beach.
When At-Large Commissioner Irwin Pastor looked out from his balcony Sunday morning after two nights of severe wind and strong waves on the eroded shoreline behind his L’Ambiance condominium, what he saw “was absolutely horrible.”
Strong waves and high tides from a strong cold front circled through the dunes and vegetation that’s the last line of shoreline defense for L’Ambiance and other nearby condominiums.
“The dunes are like butter that melted,” Pastor said. “The Gulf water got in there, went right across the dunes, crept closer to our buildings and weakened the whole area.”
Waves and currents also tore off the wooden stairs L’Ambiance residents used at low tide to access what’s left of their beach and tossed them into the damaged dune system.
“It went from bad to worse,” Pastor said. “The dunes are wiped out, the vegetation is disappearing, and it’s very threatening.”
Town Manager Dave Bullock said the southern shoreline “is the most pressing part of the shoreline that needs a beach project.”
The town received an intent to issue permit from the Army Corps of Engineers permit two weeks ago for a $3 million dredging project that will place 250,000 cubic yards of sand on the south end.
The town will put the project out to bid and seeks to start this summer, right after a $10,983,192 mid-Key sand restoration project that’s bringing 250,000 cubic yards of sand to the Key via dump trucks starts in April.
The third project that’s still awaiting a final federal permit is a $3.5 million Longboat Pass dredging project that will bring 200,000 cubic yards of sand from Gulfside Road north to the North Shore Road beach access.
Public Works Director Juan Florensa said he’s hopeful the town can get a permit for the Longboat Pass permit in the next month.
The north end shoreline, which needs sand from the Longboat Pass project, held up fairly well in and around two groins installed to hold sand just north of the North Shore Road beach access.
Bullock and Florensa said they are unsure just how much sand was lost from the storms the past two weeks islandwide. It’s likely that some of the sand that was swept offshore from the waves will make its way back to shore over the next several weeks.
Although the town hopes to put the New Pass and Longboat Pass projects out to bid at the same time, Bullock will seek bids separately if the Longboat Pass project is delayed.
“We have to move on the south end as soon as possible,” Bullock said. “Those residents have been waiting a long time, and it’s time for them to get their sand.”