As a sand truck haul and parallel beach renourishment project concludes this week, another islandwide sand-and-silt issue is emerging as a town priority.
Longboat Key resident Maureen Merrigan said access points to the inlet east of the Longboat Pass Bridge should be dredged soon to allow shallow-draft boats and kayaks to operate during low tide and stem an “overwhelming concern the water there is becoming landlocked, which would have an significant negative impact on the beauty, wildlife, property values and health/mosquitoes.”
“Sand from beach renourishment continues to drift toward the Lands End dock and looks like it will eventually prevent access entirely if not addressed,” Merrigan said.
Merrigan is not alone in her concerns. Keeping the inlet on the north end of Longboat Key open to the Gulf of Mexico was debated for a significant part of the five-hour workshop Monday.
Taylor Engineering Inc. of Sarasota reported a “moderate need” for the first town dredging project since 2003 after assessing 91 navigable canals covering almost 28 miles. The $1.5 million dredging project removed 23,000 cubic yards of material from 53 canals.
“In general, things are not bad,” reported Cliff Truitt, chief engineer for Taylor Engineering.
But Truitt estimated as much as 95,000 cubic yards of dredging material will eventually need to be excavated to restore all canals to state-permitted depths.
Costs for a canal-dredging project could range from $2.5 million to $6 million, according to Truitt.
Sea oats, sea grasses and sea turtles also present permitting challenges to do any work involving the inlet at the north end of Longboat Key, Truitt said.
Longboat Key Public Works Director Juan Florensa said sea grass mitigation was required during the 2003 dredging project.
Most commissioners advocated more study be done before making any dredging decisions.
“We haven’t done anything since 2003, and boats are still going in and out,” Vice Mayor Terry Gans said.
Commissioner Armando Linde said studying the issue over the next two years or so would be appropriate. Others agreed.
“We’ve got time to assess the situation a little bit further,” said Commissioner Phill Younger.
Commissioners endorsed Town Manager David Bullock’s suggestion to develop cost estimates, schedules and funding; develop a canal-monitoring plan; and setting aside funding for dredging.