Gulf of Mexico
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LONGBOAT KEY, FL. Longboat closer to moving forward on north end groin projects

The town received a notice of intent to issue permits from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in July.

Part of Longboat Key’s new beach management plan has received preliminary approval from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

The state DEP published a Notice of Intent to issue permits for Longboat’s proposed north end groin projects. The notice lets interested parties know in advance so they can voice their disagreement.

“The Department of Environmental Protection gives notice of its intent to … authorize the construction of five additional permeable rock groins and the placement of sand along a 2,500-foot segment of the shoreline,” the public notice reads.

Anyone “whose substantial interests are affected by the Department's action may petition for an administrative hearing,” the letter continues. Said petition “may result in a modification of the permit or even a denial of the application.”

People have two weeks to submit a formal objection. Al Browder of Olsen Associates Inc., a coastal engineering company, the project manager for the Town’s beach management plan, said that window is either in relation to the release date of the notice, July 19, or the public advertisement of the notice, which took place July 23.

Greer Island is one of the most erosional portions of Longboat Key.

In the event of an objection, Browder plans on answering any questions raised. His responses “would hopefully resolve anything before it went to some real rigorous administrative challenge,” he said.

Town Manager Tom Harmer said the last time the town tried to execute a similar project, it was taken to court.

Manatee County leaders had originally opposed building three groins on Greer Island, but they later withdrew their protest.

Longboat is facing three cost options for the overall beach management plan:

  1. "The Full Project" costs $52 million.
  2. "The Steady State" costs $32 million.
  3. Town leaders are leaning toward "The Hybrid" plan, which costs $42 million over six years.

The prices of the three options depend on sand sourcing. "The Full Project," for example, would bring in the highest-quality sand from truck-haul sources. "The Hybrid" would involve a mix of sand sources.

For the five groins, the projected cost comes to $12.6 million. The majority of the money will be spent on sand sourcing, not the groins themselves. This $12.6 million is the most liberal estimate, as it was determined using only truck-haul sand sourcing, the most expensive option for how the town will attain sand.

Harmer said beach re-nourishment efforts are going smoothly enough, since the town gets to work on figuring out and securing funding while waiting to hear back on permits.

The groins will be located from the north of Broadway Street to the north tip of the island. This Greer Island area is one of particular erosional concern.

“Because the different parts of the island don’t erode at the same rate, especially the north end, the structural intervention that we are planning here, the goal of that is to get that segment’s erosion rate to better match the rest of the island,” Browder said. “So our goal here is to significantly lower the erosion rate.”

But the NOI from the DEP is one small part of a significantly larger whole. Longboat and Browder are still waiting on permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. According to Browder, the typical protocol on coastal projects requires a permit from the state and a permit from the regulatory side of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“Their permit takes longer to get, and we don’t have that one,” Browder said. “So it's not like I can rush out and go to construction tomorrow.”

Browder’s tentative answer regarding when the groins will be built is toward the end of 2020.

Town staff and Browder are set to meet with the Town Commission and revisit beach nourishment plans on Oct. 1. Following a June meeting with commissioners, the Longboat Observer reported that the proposal will be completed and presented to the Commission in October before a spring 2020 referendum to approve funding.

Starting in the mid-1990s, Longboat has had an evolving beach management plan. The town is in the midst of the next iteration.

Greer Island demands special attention for beach nourishment efforts.

Browder added that there are eight or nine different segments along the island, and they all behave differently. The hope is to address these segments in idiosyncratic ways in order to keep the beach at a healthy condition so it provides an adequate level of storm protection during an eight-to-10-year period.

Back in June, Town Commissioner Mike Haycock asked for the October presentation from Browder and town staff to include information about how beaches to the north and south of Longboat are handling beach management. Harmer said that if the commission needs more information after the October session, the town will organize a follow-up meeting.

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