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Longboat Key Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021 2 months ago

Manatee, Longboat agree on red tide cleanup plan

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A right-of-access agreement allows Manatee County crews to provide red tide relief to the entire island.
by: Mark Bergin Staff Writer

Manatee County leaders have agreed to extend red-tide relief services to the length of Longboat Key, even the Sarasota County portion of the island. 

A right-of-access agreement signed on Aug. 12 allows Manatee County crews to range anywhere on the beach and into publicly maintained bayside canals, if needed.  The agreement could last as late as Nov. 1, depending on how long the bloom persists, though conditions have improved of late.  Manatee County leaders will work with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to ensure the county would be reimbursed for work in Sarasota County. There is no cost to the town.

Town Manager Tom Harmer said the single-county approach would help deliver a consistent level of service. Harmer said Sarasota County didn't offer to help the town with clean-up, but did offer to facilitate reimbursement of costs. 

Sarasota County Commissioners this week agreed to terms with state officials for about $3.5 million in red tide relief, a portion of which would be directed toward Longboat Key.

"So we just thought it was much more efficient if Manatee (County) would just take on the entire island, which they did,” Harmer said. 

Additionally, Manatee County is providing the town drone footage, beach raking and a trash bin for public disposal of dead fish.

“Everything they’re doing on the Manatee County side, they’re now offering on the Sarasota (County) side,” Harmer said. “Now, fortunately, over the past week, the red tide conditions have lessened somewhat.”

Harmer said town staff does a daily examination of the beach and bay shoreline, but the drone footage provides a better perspective.

“Having the drone fly the area, you can really see the conditions right there at the shoreline, but also near shore, and get a better sense of how much red tide may be in the area,” Harmer said.

The trash bin is located at the Atlas Beach Access at 4795 Gulf of Mexico Drive. Initially, the town had placed it at the Linley Street boat ramp but moved to preserve parking. It's available for residents, condo or homeowners groups to dump fish remains.  

 

Manatee County's dumpster is located at the Atlas Beach Access at 4795 Gulf of Mexico Drive.

Harmer said Manatee County crews would also provide help assessing the town’s canals and clean-up of dead fish when it’s necessary. He said Manatee County has also ordered a few boats specifically to help mitigate red tide. They need for such a sweep of bayside canals has not yet been necessary. 

Longboat Key’s policy requires three to four tide cycles and a moderate level of dead fish accumulation before the town initiates a clean-up of a specific area.

Sarasota County provided the town a list of potentially eligible costs, which includes mechanical beach raking, equipment rental, landfill fees, communications and contracted vendors. Harmer said it could also include overtime pay for town employees focused on red tide recovery.

In a report to the town following the 2018-19 outbreak of red tide, town officials reported spending $59,517 on in-house beach and canal cleanup.  The town gathered a total of 186,660 pounds of dead sea life for disposal in 1,058 staff hours.

 

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Mark Bergin is the Longboat Key Town Hall reporter for the Observer. He has previously worked as a senior digital producer at WTSP, the CBS affiliate in St. Petersburg. Mark is a graduate of the University of Missouri and grew up in the Chicagoland area.

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