+ Town should seek long-term planning for beach funding
On Dec. 16, I sat for four hours at the Town Commission meeting listening to the presentations and discussions on alternative beach solutions and their respective costs. The local newspaper accounts are more complete on these details.
The costs can vary based on which plan the commissioners select, and the costs range from $30 million to $45 million. The method of funding the project is by approving a bond issue and is on the shoulders of the Longboat Key voter, who in 2011 will be asked to approve a $45 million bond issue. The Longboat Key taxpayer will have the burden for repayment, but I did not hear any discussion on the actual finance costs, pay-back period or interest costs.
The life or longevity of beach sand replenishment is really unknown based on wave action, currents, storms, etc., but in most cases eight-to-10 years are used, and then another replenishment project or unknown scope may be needed. It’s easy to see this is not a problem solved by just throwing a lot of money at a current project. Beaches are like any other municipal physical asset, they require maintenance, repair and even replacement. As Mr. Paden Woodruff, Florida DEP representative, recommended strongly that Longboat “needs” to make applications to the federal government for assistance, like almost every other community with the similar needs has done.
Approximately 15 to 20 years ago I presented to then Town Manager Grif Roberts the reasons why Longboat needed to make applications for beach funding assistance from the federal government, and his answer was Longboat doesn’t want to get involved with the feds, our taxpayers can handle and pay for our beach needs, and the same answer has been given by numerous Longboat commissioners during the ensuing years. The costs have gotten much larger, and what will the obligation be in the future? Are there limitations on how much debt we will incur?
It is a given that the quality of our beaches are paramount in maintaining our distinctive elegance. The city of Cape May, N.J., where we have a summer home, in cooperation with the two adjoining municipalities secured a 50-year contract with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to replenish their beaches every eight-plus years, as needed, based on a pre-determined engineering plan, and the costs are funded by the federal government. Achieving this approval was with a great deal of cooperation from government officials at all levels and a determined local management team.
Longboat officials needed to change their attitude and position on federal government assistance. I hope the current and future Longboat commissioners heed the Florida DEP recommendation, and the examples set by many other communities, and move quickly for federal assistance. Without a long-term financial solution, bonding for each beach project, as needed, is without merit. Prudent leadership and management are required by the current administration for consideration of long-term needs and planning and not just pushed on to the next administration.
Julius B. Rauch III
Editor’s note: On Jan. 6, the commission approved a $16 million beach refrendum question for the March 15 ballot.
+ Where the land meets the sea
Far too often we lump all the actions along our coast as a beach renourishment project. This typically dilutes the discussion into a white fine-grain or coarse dark- sand simplicity. Our shoreline protection requirements are much more complex and perhaps should be discussed as a collection of actions or a system approach to encompass shoreline survival. Structural solutions should be installed continuously as they are identified and not delayed to coincide with “renourishment projects.”
For instance, the mid-Key groins in front of the Islander are demonstrating a huge success in the short time since installation. The sand collection appears to be balanced with the sand passing south. These initial results should quiet the naysayers who fought against the project. Beachside residents should visit the Islander property; you will be impressed with how wisely your money was spent.
There are other areas that need permanent solutions, perhaps of lesser magnitude, to prevent accelerating shoreline erosion. I am familiar with the negative erosion impact on the beach several hundred yards both north and south of Younkers wall. This problem doesn’t require a jump-off-the-cliff solution. It deserves a well-thought-out and timely correction.
The No. 1 area, of course, is the north end — Greer Island (aka Beer Can Island) south to Longbeach condominiums, including North Shore Road. Ironically, this is a three- to four-year-old disaster that started eroding six-to-seven years ago with the visible telltale loss of the Australian pine trees.
The solution floating to the surface now, which appears to make the most sense, would be to install a break wall on the south side of Longboat Pass, similar to the existing north side break wall that was probably built around the same time period of the Longboat Pass draw bridge in 1965. The accelerating sand loss from the entire north end of Longboat Key must be stopped without delay, with a well-designed structure.
Perhaps a better ongoing solution with Manatee County, as part of a systems approach, should be a continuous dialogue on multiple subjects to improve results and receiving our fair share of tax money. A town commissioner with built-in short-term longevity cannot be an effective liaison.
If the pipeline project with the built-in subsidy doesn’t fit into the town’s schedule, deposit that sand in the Younkers wall area. Sometimes we try to keep everybody happy and lose sight of the main objective of shoreline protection!
Now, the Sand Grabber or Sandsaver sound like entertaining ideas — if used in limited situations. It doesn’t look swimmer or surfboarding friendly. I can visualize a swimmer surfing a wave and hitting a concrete barrier on Longboat Key. The suggestion that the Great Lakes’ wave conditions simulate Florida coastal waters is totally ridiculous! There are no tides or hurricanes in the Great Lakes area. Thirty years ago, the method of choice to build sandy beaches on Lake Erie was to place old car tires on the shoreline.
The Whitney Beach section of shoreline lost 140 feet of beach in four-and-a-half years, or an average of 30 feet per year. Barring a major hurricane, the beach will survive until 2012, which would be a six-year cycle, and we can remain comfortable with property protection, perhaps because we received a mixture of course dark sand during the last beach renourishment. We should look for ideas to reduce the cost of future projects by using darker course, heavy sand instead of the fluffy white sand.
In closing, it is said that, “History repeats itself.” I anticipate that after the 2012 renourishment project completion, we will again go to sleep and not fix the next “hot spot” on the list until 2018 and continue to watch the shoreline erode.
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