As a massive 150-foot-long dredge makes its way this week through Lake Okeechobee and the Intracoastal Waterway to begin a $5 million renourishment project in New Pass, Commissioner Irwin Pastor says he can't wait to get his beach back.
Pastor, who is president of L’Ambiance condominiums, said 6-foot dunes normally arrayed in front of the condos melted away during unusual winter weather.
“I’m excited,” Pastor said. “We haven’t had a beach for the whole season. Our property is on the same level as the Gulf of Mexico, and it will be nice to see that corrected.”
Pastor blamed unusual winter winds from the northwest with beginning the gradual erosion, which eventually stripped away the protective dunes.
“Normally, we don’t get much erosion with sand drifting to the south,” Pastor said. “So this is abnormal to see the south beach have the problems we’ve had.”
The Resort of Longboat Key Club is also prepared for dredging to begin.
“We believe the dredging project will have minimal impact on the day-to-day operations of the resort,” wrote Sandra Rios, of the Resort of Longboat Key Club, in an email. “We do not have concerns as the Town has done an excellent job of communicating timelines and the scope of work that needs to be done. We are well-informed and, as a result, have been able to put plans in place to address the upgrades that will be made to our beach.”
Norfolk Dredging Co. of Chesapeake, Va., is already mobilizing equipment, including a pipe on the beach, according to Longboat Key Public Works and Utilities Director Juan Florensa. Actual dredging is projected to begin Friday.
“Other than weather or major equipment issues, I have no concerns,” he said. “This company is a big company and has been around a long time.”
The hydraulic dredging vessel named Pullen will pump 200,000 cubic yards of sand from New Pass onto the shoreline between L’Ambiance and Regent Place.
“You won’t miss it,” Florensa said of the big dredging rig.
Sand dredged from the New Pass channel borrow area will be delivered via submerged pipeline to the southern L’Ambiance Condominium boundary and begin building the beach northward to Regent Place.
Dredging will go on 24/7 to complete work as quickly as possible, Florensa reported. The town has federal and state regulatory permits to work at night.
The New Pass portion of the project is expected to be complete about Sept. 15. The town has ordered about 40,000 cubic yards of sand trucked in to supplement the New Pass project.
Once south-end sand placement is done, dredging will move to the north end of the Key, using 250,000 cubic yards of sand from Longboat Pass to fill two critically eroded areas, according to a report from Florensa.
Florensa said the U.S. Coast Guard could mark the New Pass channel navigable again after dredging is done.
Via a referendum, Longboat Key voters chose to tax themselves to pay for the project. Special assessments were made based on property values. The town borrowed the money and used a taxing district to pay it back, according to Florensa.
Mother Nature remains the main wild card in the dredging equation, Florensa said.
“Summer, believe it or not, is slow weather-wise,” Florensa said. “But these dredges are made for inland dredging. If the wave action gets too strong or too high, we will have to stop dredging.”