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Longboat Key finishes beach renourishment projects

The projects cost the town $36 million to move about 1 million cubic yards of sand.

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  • | 8:39 p.m. September 27, 2021
The town's contractors have dredged sand throughout the summer.
The town's contractors have dredged sand throughout the summer.
  • Longboat Key
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As the town nears completion of its six-segment beach renourishment project early next year, things are looking different along the beaches of Longboat Key.

On the north end, bright white new sand gleams where a forest of driftwood once sat. To hold that new sand, crews are finishing construction on five new permeable concrete groins that jut from the shore into the blue water of the Gulf. On the south, sand dredged from New Pass widens the beach.

In all, the town has placed 1 million cubic yards of sand in about a year's time, a $36 million project that has affected miles of beach along the Key and all the things that happen along it.

As an organization that spends most days in the summer walking that beach, Longboat Key Turtle Watch Vice President Cyndi Seamon said the beach renourishment has impacted the logistics of sea turtle nesting.

“It certainly changed the way we would normally do patrol,” Seamon said. “We had to shift some people around.”

Seamon and Turtle Watch volunteers had to move nests to accommodate the sand dredging efforts on both the south and north ends of Longboat Key. 

Seasonal Bradenton Beach resident Andre Archambault enjoys riding his bike on the north end of Longboat Key. Archambault said he used to enjoy the driftwood that got removed for the project on the north end of Greer Island. However, there is still some driftwood in the area.

“It looks beautiful, don’t get me wrong,” Archambault said. “It’s nice, but it doesn’t have that quaintness, but it’s just very inviting now for people to go there.”

Seamon agreed with Archambault about the visual appeal of the new sand, especially considering how far the beach extends on the north end.

“The beach is huge up at the north end, oh my gosh,” Seamon said. “It’s massive.”

1 million cubic yards placed

The current renourishment project is larger in scope than the last one, completed in 2016. That project, which consisted mostly of dumptrucks hauling inland sand to the beach, placed about one-quarter of the sand of this one, at 243,000 cubic yards, and cost less as well, at $20.28 million.

Longboat Key Town Projects Manager Charlie Mopps said once the project is officially completed, the town will have moved 8.7 million cubic yards of sand in the history of its beach renourishment projects, which are necessary every six to eight years.

Mopps said at $36 million, the project will also come in under his February estimate of about $38.85 million. He said the decrease in the amount of sand dredged for Segments 4 and 5 of the project contributed toward the savings.

“I think between the last time we talked and now, it’s this efficiency in what they’re doing,” Mopps said.

On Monday, Mopps updated the Town Commission about the project. He credited the cooperation between the town, contractor Cottrell Contracting, contractor Weeks Marine, state agencies, Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium with the project being completed within budget and on time.

What’s next

In winter 2021 or early 2022, the town is looking to hire a contractor to conduct groin maintenance of the New Pass groin on the south end of the island. Town staff is planning to start and finish construction before the 2022 start of shorebird and sea turtle nesting seasons.

Mopps said the town would examine several facets in selecting a contractor to do the south-end work.

“They would have to have done a similar project within Florida to show that they have, not only the capacity to do it, but the knowledge to do it,” Mopps said.

The town is also proposing a 15-year permit to dredge and place sand for Greer Island spit management. The plan is to clear sand from the lagoon channel and from the bridge area every four to eight years. Permit pending, the town plans to return sand to the Gulf shoreline, and it would also return Greer Island to its 2006 conditions.

When Longboat Key does its next beach renourishment project in six to eight years, Mopps said the town would focus on the New Pass area, Gulfside Road, the Whitney Beach segment, south of the Ohana seawall and south of the half-moon seawall.

“Right now, if the groins function like they are functioning, (these) will be our next major hotspot swhere we’re going to have to look either some type of management option or whatever in order to get those to be what we want,” Mopps said.

Mopps received praise from several town commissioners on Monday for his department’s work.

“The bad news, Charlie, is that when you have an outstanding result like this, the question becomes very quickly, ‘Well, what have you done for me today?’” Mayor Ken Schneier joked. “And my understanding now is you're going to have the Town Center completed by Thanksgiving.”

Seamon is among the residents who are pleased with the town’s work.

“The end result was a bigger beach for both people and turtles nesting,” Seamon said.



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