The Sarasota Observer looks back on the top stories of the year.
In what would become Lido Key’s largest beach renourishment, a $22 million project would pump close to 1 million cubic yards of sand dredged from Big Pass and New Pass to the beach. The project would also add three groins, intended to trap the newly placed sand, to the north end of Lido’s beach.
The project is at least four to five years from fruition, and federal funding that would pay for 62% of the overall cost has not yet been approved, said City Engineer Alex DavisShaw.
DavisShaw, the city manager, a county planner and a representative from Lido Key Homeowners Association, met with federal officials Monday, March 25, to discuss project plans.
Those plans are preliminary, but one thing is clear: City officials think the ambitious project is the best way to buffer the beach from frequent erosion from storms. They will spend the next several months trying to convince federal officials to set aside $13.64 million — or 62% of the overall cost.
City Manager Tom Barwin said the renourishment would also “protect the coastline and many structures within the coastline,” a factor that officials will stress as they try to convince federal officials to set aside funds. Congress will have to authorize the funding.
“The biggest issue is getting funding,” Barwin said. “The project is not currently in the federal budget.”
Although federal officials have been slow to set aside funds for recent coastal renourishment projects, last month the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gave final approval to a $23 million Sanibel Island renourishment.
If Sarasota gets the go-ahead for permitting from state and federal agencies, and the $13.64 million in federal funding, the remaining cost of the project will be funded through a $4.18 million FDEP grant and another $4.18 million in Sarasota County Tourist Development Tax (TDT) funding.
As one of the next steps in the process, the city will hold a series of public workshops — including one on Lido Key — to discuss aspects of the project with residents, DavisShaw said.
The last major placements of sand on the beach took place in 2001, when 400,000 cubic yards of sand were pumped onto the beach, with two subsequent renourishments in 2003 (770,000 cubic yards of sand) and 2009 to replace eroded sand.
According to that state’s Department of Environmental Protection, the beach on Lido Key loses an average of 20 feet per year due to erosion.
Along the beach, posted signs currently warn of rocks the surf has exposed. Along one stretch, a 4-foot-high wall remains where wave action has torn away a chunk of the sandy coast.
Tropical Storm Debby caused much of the erosion on the Key, and the FDEP has already funded a smaller separate renourishment project to replace some of that sand. The project has been designed, but the FDEP has not issued final approval.
Keeping sand in place
Lido already has one rock groin along the public beach just south of the Lido Beach Pool and Pavilion.
A main part of the city’s beach plan is to put in three additional updated groins on Lido Beach. If the project is approved, the groins, which would work to retain the newly placed sand, would be installed on the north end of Lido Key, DavisShaw said.
The exact location and type of groins will be studied over the next few months, DavisShaw said. The initial evaluation called for “granite, rubble-type” groins, but federal officials wanted to see more analysis on the cost of different types of groins.
In 2010, two modern groins were placed on Longboat Key near the Islander Club.
Those devices are adjustable, allowing engineers to change how much sand passes through the system.
The groins are also popular hangouts for birds and people who fish.
“In 2012 we adjusted them to make them more permeable,” said Longboat Key Public Works Director Juan Florensa. “They were basically working too well.”
About two years ago, DavisShaw visited the two new groins near the Islander Club. At the time, the city was “at least looking at the possibility of those types of groins,” Florensa said.
Lido Key’s $22 million project has been in the “planning process for quite some time,” Barwin said.
According to DavisShaw, the ambitious project is similar to Longboat Key’s $17 million renourishment completed in 2005.
During that project, crews spread 1.6 million cubic yards of sand on 9.5 miles of beach.
The initial renourishment on Lido Key will create a “beefier beach” that is wider than previous projects, DavisShaw said.
After the first renourishment and the installation of the groins, the city’s plan is to add additional sand to the beach every five years.
“The conversation under way is for a 50-year regular cycle for beach renourishment along the Gulf,” Barwin said. “That will see the beach renourished every five years on a regular cycle.”
Currently, there is no regular beach-renourishment cycle on Lido Key.
“When a storm comes through, we lose a lot of the wonderful white sand,” Barwin.
Sand “recycled” from Big Pass would be used for the regular five-year renourishment projects, Barwin said.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is working on a plan with the city to dredge the inlet north of Siesta Key that has never been dredged. In this case, the main purpose of dredging would be to harvest sand to mitigate erosion damage on Lido, but dredging could also have a secondary effect of, at least temporarily, making the inlet more navigable for boaters.
Another possibility is getting sand from New Pass. As part of an agreement between Longboat Key and the city, sand that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredged from New Pass would be shared with Longboat and Lido Key, Florensa said.
“It looks like a smart, well thought-out plan that really boils down to recycling the sand that has been here and doesn’t go far,” Barwin said.
Barwin hopes the five-year, sand-renourishment plan “will someday be implemented and become a regular part of the maintenance of our natural resources.”