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Siesta Key Thursday, Mar. 17, 2016 5 years ago

Sarasota County digs into Turtle Beach project

Sarasota County has started closing portions of the south Siesta Key beach to begin a $21.5 million renourishment effort.
by: Alex Mahadevan News Innovation Editor

While Siesta Key residents consider litigation over the dredging of Big Pass, Sarasota County has launched a much less controversial renourishment project at Turtle Beach.

Two dredges started pumping 700,000 cubic yards of sand from as far as 10 miles into the Gulf of Mexico onto the south Siesta shoreline last week. The $21.5 million project should be finished by the end of April, according to county project manager Paul Semenec.

“All activities on the beach need to be done by then, including planting of native vegetation on the dune because turtle season starts May 1,” Semenec said.

County contractor Weeks Marine is shutting down portions of the 2-mile  stretch of beach to replenish about 150 feet of shoreline. Crews are currently working on the south end of Turtle Beach stretching down to Palmer Point Park and will continue working northward.

Although county officials don’t expect Weeks Marine to work past the April 30 deadline, weather and machine malfunctions are the two biggest risk factors that could delay the 120-day project.

On Tuesday, a hole appeared in one of the pipelines stretching into the gulf, shutting down the filling portion of the dredge-and-fill operation.

The county last renourished the shoreline, which serves as a quieter overflow from the crowds of Siesta Beach, during an $11.9 million project in 2007.

As occurred during that restoration, roughly 60 gulf-front property owners will be assessed a combined $3.5 million to pay 18% of the contractor’s fee. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection will provide a $2.75 million grant, and the county will dip into tourist tax funds for the remaining $11 million.

Semenec said the contractor is trying to be sensitive to the needs of beachgoers during the project. Despite the disruption, he believes the dredging will be worth it in the end.

“It’s the height of the tourist season, it’s spring break, and we’re shutting down portions of the beach,” said Semenec. “But when the project is done, it’s going to be a much bigger beach that everyone can enjoy.”

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