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Sarasota's Big Pass has never been dredged.
Siesta Key Friday, Jun. 13, 2014 3 years ago

VIDEO: Army Corps releases Big Pass study draft

by: Alex Mahadevan News Innovation Editor

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers $23 million plans to renourish Lido Key with sand from Big Pass have brought together Siesta Key groups in opposition and inspired a music video. Yesterday, as expected, the Army Corps released the draft of a study that supports the dredging efforts.

“(The Army Corps) made this public so both the city and the county can have it peer reviewed,” said Sarasota City Engineer Alex DavisShaw. The city has already contracted with a firm to do the analysis.

“Results from the CMS (Coastal Modeling System) model have shown that it is possible to mine the ebb shoal without affecting sediment transport pathways that deliver sediment to (Siesta Key),” according to the draft. Mining more than 1.3 million cubic yards of sand from the outskirts of the never-been-dredged channel and adding groins wouldn’t affect navigability or increase wave energy.

According to Army Corps data and models in the draft, the Big Pass shoal has grown by more than 3 million cubic centimeters of sand in the last decade, bringing its total volume to 23.3 million cubic yards.

“I’ve got staff reviewing it currently,” said Sarasota County Coastal Resources Manager Laird Wreford, who could not speak in specifics about the newly-released study. “Now, we have the most up-to-date information on the extensive work the Army Corps has done on the impacts the project is expected to have.”

County staff will sit down with city of Sarasota staff and the Army Corps Tuesday, to discuss the study.

The Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce, the Siesta Key Association and the Siesta Key Village Association have all joined in opposition to dredging plans and in support of an independent peer review of the Army Corps statistics and methodology. Another Siesta Key organization, Save Our Siesta Sands 2, took a litigious step last month in opposition to the proposed dredging.

Carlton Fields Jorden Burt attorney Don Hemke, who represents the group, sent a letter May 16 to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers citing concerns about the project, and the need for more formal environmental reviews.

On the other side of the inlet, the St. Armands Residents Association recently submitted a petition with 94 signatures to show Lido Beach neighbors stand behind the project.

“Lido Beach has suffered severe beach erosion in recent years and is in urgent need of replenishment,” the petition states. “ ... We, the undersigned, are concerned citizens who urge our leaders to act now to authorize the approval and implementation of the (project).”

The county has an overall interest in making sure the project doesn’t negatively affect coastal systems, and a specific interest in the county-owned areas on South Lido Beach, Wreford said. The city may have to seek a construction easement for sand-saving structures included in the project.

“At least one of the structures is very likely to be on county property,” Wreford said.

County staff expect to update commissioners on the study during a budget workshop this summer, with a formal discussion scheduled for October, after more analysis.

“It’s very technical and certainly lengthy,” Wreford said.


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