Gulf of Mexico
Fox13 News

Editorial: Counties cement regional approach to renourishment

OUR POSITION: A major, bi-county beach restoration effort officially goes forward.

Three years back, Manasota Key was facing serious problems if radical action were not taken to stop and reverse shoreline erosion.

By this time next year, the solution finally may be in place.

With a unanimous vote last week, the Sarasota County Commission joined Charlotte County’s large-scale beach renourishment project. Only six homes on the Gulf side of the Key in Sarasota were left out of the overall program, but commissioners promised the county would do whatever was deemed feasible to include them.

We’re confident they’ll make the effort, but the erosion situation is complex near those properties. The shore bottom there is hard. Sand placed on a “hard bottom” washes away quickly, so additional mitigation must be done first. The same situation exists in a larger area offshore in Charlotte County, and mitigation is extremely expensive.

For the rest of the Key, the decision to move forward is very good news. Sarasota County is piggy-backing on Charlotte County’s renourishment initiative. Erosion affects more properties in Charlotte, which also has far less total Gulf beachfront footage than the entirety of Sarasota. Nevertheless, for property owners on Manasota Key, the situation is critical.

As homeowner Harry Artz told commissioners, “We live here, we love it, but we’re just afraid.”

For good reason.

The need for beach renourishment has been discussed for decades in Charlotte County, but only in recent years has erosion gotten so bad that something, undeniably, needed to be done. Along many sections of the Key, the rate of erosion rose from one foot a year from 1980 to 2000, to four feet per year from 2001 to 2015.

Charlotte hired the well-respected Coastal Engineering Consultants to study, design and engineer a large-scale sand replacement program. The county then hired a national consultant to devise a fair cost-sharing structure to pay for it, and set up a special taxing district on the Key to fund for a significant portion.

The state also is expected to sweeten the pot with a substantial contribution. With Sarasota joining Charlotte, this becomes a “regional” beach project, which increases the likelihood and the amount of state support.

Sarasota will now work on the six out-lying properties, which are just north of Sarasota’s 1.63-mile-long project area. The rest on the Sarasota side will be included in a special taxing/benefit district, which will be created this summer. Individual property assessments will also be determined at the same time. The overall cost is expected to be $8.6 million, with some of that coming from the county’s tourist development tax fund and some from the state.

Charlotte is ready to go. Roughly 75 percent of affected property owners have signed off on easements that will allow the county to proceed. The sand replenishment itself — from the Sarasota County line south to Stump Pass Beach State Park — is expected to begin in November, after sea turtle-nesting is over. It should be completed by the following May, when sea turtle season begins again.

According to projections, ongoing maintenance will be needed in future years. But the frequency of renourishment will decrease as the offshore hardened area is fixed and the shoreline reinforced some 50 yards out into the Gulf. And, finally, property owners and members of the public who enjoy the use of these beaches, will be secure in a tremendous resource.

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