Town plans to remove 15,000 cubic yards of material from canals.
| 4:00 p.m. December 12, 2018
Michael Drake has been living next to Severns Bayou on the north end of Longboat Key for more than 20 years.
Drake, president of the Longboat Key Historical Society, wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I just love it,” said Drake, who frequently takes his kayak down to the water where it is waist high. And he was pleased when he learned the town plans to dredge 14 canals next year, a project he said is sorely needed.
“The tides come in and bring in silt and debris,” said Drake, adding that sand from beach renourishment projects also moves around, clogging canals.
“Mother Nature can be cruel,” he said. “Things need to be maintained, or they will get messy.”
Some time in fall 2019, Longboat Key is expected to begin dredging 14 of its bayside canals, a $1.2 million project that got jump started with a recent grant from Sarasota County that will cover roughly 25% of the cost and three of the targeted canals, Harborside Perimeter (Canal 33P), Longboat Club Road by the Chart House (Canal 55), and New Pass Access Canal (Canal 55A).
Initially, the town, which has more than 70 natural and manmade canals, had hoped to begin dredging the still-navigable canals, located in both Sarasota and Manatee counties, more than a year ago. But, the project was delayed by 2017’s Hurricane Irma and the outbreak of red tide, Public Works Director Isaac Brownman said.
“The earliest will be the fall,” said James Linkogle, the town’s project manager, “if permitting goes favorably.”
Like anything involving waterways, the permitting process can take time. State permits are needed as are federal authorizations because fish and wildlife, as well as sea grass and oyster beds, could be disturbed. The town is hopeful of securing its necessary approvals, Brownman and Linkogle said, within the next few months.
“That’s what we’re trying to figure out now,” Linkogle said.
In October 2016, the town’s engineer, Taylor Engineering Inc. of Jacksonville, said there was a “moderate need” for the first town dredging project since 2003 when 23,000 cubic yards of material were removed from 53 canals.
Following information provided by Taylor Engineering, the town decided to use a depth of 3 feet below mean lower level water, the average height of the lowest tide recorded at a tide station during a 19-year National Tidal Datum Epoch, to determine which canals needed to be dredged, Linkogle said.
Dredging is necessary for coastal communities to keep the canals open to boat traffic. If the sediment at the bottom of a canal is not removed periodically, it will “silt up” and boats will not be able to move around. Homeowners will lose their access to Sarasota Bay.
The town is planning on removing 15,000 cubic yards — the equivalent of two Goodyear blimps — of sediment from the 14 targeted canals by hydraulic dredging. This kind of dredging works like a large vacuum sucking up the sediment and water — slurry — from the bottom of the canal and depositing it in another location.
The debris from Longboat’s canals will not be used for beach nourishment directly. The town has not yet determined what it will do with the material, said Brownman, adding several ideas are being discussed.
The project’s budget includes $149,285 feasibility work; $750,000 for the dredging itself, and $300,00 for engineering and monitoring. In addition to the Sarasota County grant, the town will fund the remainder of the project through its capital improvement budget, money that will be well spent, said Commissioner Jack Daly.
“People who live on the bayside enjoy boating,” he said. “This is an ongoing effort by the town to provide a service to residents who love and respect the water.”
Drake, whose property sits behind Whitney Beach Plaza, likes to sit in his backyard and watch kayakers paddle by his home, an advantage of living in Longboat Key.
“Without the waterways and sand, Longboat Key is nothing,” he said.