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Stairs on John Saputo's dock are disappearing as sand collecting near his property washes over them.
Longboat Key Wednesday, Jun. 18, 2014 3 years ago

Lighthouse Point sees sand surplus

by: Kurt Schultheis Senior Editor

As the town prepares to formulate a plan to restore sand to a 3,000-square-foot area of lost beach from L’Ambiance north to the beach behind Longboat Towers at a cost of approximately $4 million, Lighthouse Point resident John Saputo has one question:

“If the town is looking for sand, why don’t they take it from their own island?” Saputo asked.

Specifically, Saputo can show you where all the sand lost from that section of the beach has gone.

Saputo, whose community of single-family homes is on the south tip of the Key, and his neighbors have held meetings to discuss a problem that some residents wish they had.

“We have too much sand,” Saputo said. “We need to get rid of it. Let the town take it.”

About 12 years ago, Tangerine Development Co., the company that sold single-family home lots to create Lighthouse Point, built a line of rock groins that stuck out from the shore on the south end of the Key to stop an erosion problem in the area.

Saputo said that move cost him approximately 100 feet of beach frontage because the groins diverted the sand to an area of homes that had a severe erosion problem.

To gain the beach back, he and a few other Lighthouse Point homeowners paid to have a rock seawall installed, which stopped the loss of sand in their area but also diverted more sand moving from north to south along Longboat Key’s shore from the beach to a large spit of sand near New Pass and Lighthouse Point.

The large sandbar is commonly referred to as the “Redneck Yacht Club,” Saputo said, because boaters moor on the sandbar, play music and drink beer.

The sandbar, though, isn’t the only large spit of sand in the area.

There’s so much sand accreting in the area that Lighthouse Point residents and other boaters have trouble maneuvering their boats in nearby channels and in Longboat Pass.

“When I bought my house, there was a big dock, and at median tide, there was 7 feet of water under my dock,” Saputo said. “Now I have less than 6 inches of water depth at low tide under my dock.”

Saputo said a channel he and residents use “is all but filled in with sand, and you can see the bottom of the channel and pass at low tide.

“There is literally tons and tons and yards and yards of sand available,” Saputo said. “There’s no emphasis on keeping the channels and waterways open in a boating community like this, and that’s a shame.”

Town Manager Dave Bullock said that in two years he expects to have an agreement in place with the city of Sarasota for a sand- sharing agreement and a permit to dredge New Pass, which will bring more sand to eroded areas on the south end of the Key.

Although that permit won’t allow the town to take the sand closer to shore, Bullock said that’s an option that will be investigated.

“If we can get a permit, we can take the sand,” Bullock said.

But town officials say it’s one thing to pinpoint areas that have too much sand and another thing to actually be allowed to move it.

“We realize a lot of the sand that created erosion spots on the south end is now in that area,” said Public Works Project Manager James Linkogle. “But you need a permit and permission from state and federal agencies to move it. That’s tough to accomplish.”

For now, the plan to fix erosion just a mile away calls for thousands of dump truck trips bringing approximately 25,000 cubic yards of sand from inland areas of the state to the beach.

Total cost for the project is estimated between $1.4 million and $1.7 million. Town staff would tap into a $5 million beach fund to pay for the project. Staff would also make an application for reimbursement of project costs because of Tropical Storm Debby’s impacts in the area.

If the project is approved and the town receives state permits in a timely manner, the project could begin in November, Bullock said.

Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected]


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