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Virginia firm digs into $5M New Pass dredging on Longboat Key

Early start on beach rebuilding encourages veteran project manager

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  • | 5:03 p.m. August 22, 2016
Sand dredging begins to establish a beachhead from which to work using sand dredged from in New Pass.
Sand dredging begins to establish a beachhead from which to work using sand dredged from in New Pass.
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The 45-year-old project manager handling the sand-pumping hydraulic dredging vessel named Pullen in New Pass near Longboat Key has more experience than most in the beach-rebuilding game.

“My granddad did it for 50 years, my dad did it for 50 years and I’ve been doing it since I was 18,” said Steve Bassett of Norfolk Dredging

Bassett is off to a great start managing the $5 million project critical to the restoration of eroded Longboat Key beachfronts. He’s already successfully navigated the tricky three-week trek towing the Pullen from Chesapeake, Va., to Longboat Key

The Pullen began rebuilding Longboat Key beachfront with dredged sand at 9:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 18 – a day ahead of schedule.

Longboat Key Public Works and Utilities Director Juan Florensa said the major schedule variable now is dredge vulnerability to stormy waters.

“A major storm such as a tropical depression would cause operations to be suspended for sure,” Florensa said.

The dredge is not self-propelled so it has to be towed or pulled wherever it goes, he said.

“It can’t be towed into New Pass because it’s too shallow,” Florensa said.

Bassett said it take six to 10 hours to tow the Pullen to safe harbor if a major storm approaches.

“It depends on the severity of the storm,” Bassett said. “If it’s a named storm and we need to get a little farther inland, it could take a little longer.”

The 150-foot Pullen will pump 200,000 cubic yards of sand from New Pass onto the shoreline between L’Ambiance and Regent Place. The renourishment project in New Pass will replace dunes stripped away by winter winds.

Norfolk Dredging Co. of Chesapeake, Va., a 117-year-old firm, has been engaged in hydraulic and clamshell dredging since 1899 in all coastal areas, according to its website. The venerable firm has motivation to finish the Longboat Key job quickly, Bassett said.

“We have an $18 million job in New Orleans we are heading to when this project is over,” he said. “It was fortunate to catch this project on the way to New Orleans.”

The Town of Longboat Key voted to tax itself 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.

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 to be completed about Sept. 15.

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 south of Gulfside Road, according to a report from Florensa. The project is expected to be finished in November after a mid-September start.

“We’re thinking it will take about a month before we get to Longboat Pass,” Florensa said.

Don’t expect a fourth-generation Bassett to pass this way for a dredging project in the future.

“I’ve got three girls and I am going to encourage them to be teachers or something closer to home,” Bassett said.


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