Big Pass and Lido Beach Renourishment Project
On August 20, 2014, the Board of County Commissioners unanimously approved funding to support an independent peer review of the most recent Army Corps of Engineers proposal.
During the budget hearing, Laird Wreford, Coastal Resource Manager for Sarasota County focused initially on needed evaluation of impact for the South Lido County Park. The impact issues arose after SKA provided historical data surrounding the purchase of the land using federal funds in 1973. These federally funded grants were to purchase land to “maintain open spaces and recreational use by the public forever in their natural state.” See attached article Lido and City of Sarasota Fight Dredge and Fill…A Time Capsule.
The independent peer review will be chosen from a library of existing approved Coastal Resource Engineers who are not dependent on the Army Corps of Engineers funding. The focus and method will be a review and interpretation of the project scope, methods and professional opinion, not a “repeat” of the Army Corps’s specific studies.
In addition, SKA advocated with the city and county staff to remedy the existing damage from Tropical Storm Debby in 2012. The shoreline damage has worsened since the original permit was approved. The original approved FEMA repair does not have sufficient funds or sand allocated to complete the repairs. Our hope is that a modified project, scheduled to be initiated after turtle nesting season 2014, will ease the critical urgency and provide relief as the larger Lido Key ACOE plan is reviewed.
On January 9, 2014, the Siesta Key Association Board of Directors unanimously approved the following statement to be added to our position regarding the City of Sarasota/ACOE Lido Beach renourishment project.
“Whereas Big Pass has never been dredged and the shoal provides both protection and natural renourishment of Siesta beaches, the Siesta Key Association, based on documentation currently available to us, states its grave concern and opposition to any form of dredging in Big Pass channel and shoal.”
On December 5, 2013, Siesta Key Association invited the City of Sarasota and Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) to present the preliminary Lido Beach Renourishment Plan. In response to our community’s concerns, SKA submitted a list of project questions to the ACOE (PDF format). While most were answered, several questions remain critical for our community. Lido Key has been renourished many times during the past 35 years. The shoreline has been designated, along with a large percentage of Sarasota County shoreline, as critically eroded.
The ACOE proposed a plan to dredge sand from the outer ebb shoal of Big Pass. They believe the observed increase of the Big Pass ebb shoal is due to migrating sand from previously renourished portions of Lido Beach. Part of their model and basis for sand “borrowing” is transferential, meaning recycling of sand obtained from other previously dredged sources.
Within the scope of the current project design and the ACOE report, they cannot safely obtain all needed sand from the ebb shoal. They suggest also dredging sand from two Big Pass navigation channels; one along the south shoreline of Lido Key, the other along the northern seaward (Sunset Point) end of Siesta Key.
They are recommending placement of three groins along the southwestern end and southeast end of Lido Key. This involves shoreline hardening and placement of deeply placed stone substrate along Lido Beach in three areas. Their stated goal is to reduce the rate of erosion and, therefore, the frequency and cost of renourishment. They state the only site available and containing sufficient quantities of sand for this project is the ebb shoal and channels of Big Pass. They reported four other sites for sand “borrowing” are not available for the project. See the ACOE Plan (PowerPoint Presentation) for details.
Attendees, including property owners of the City of Sarasota (Bay Island) along with the community of Siesta Key, strongly voiced objection to this plan. No request has ever been made or a need identified for navigational dredging of our historically stable Big Pass channels. Big Pass is a natural Gulf Coast inlet and navigable Pass without dredging or maintenance. The Big Pass ebb shoal provides a buffer of protection from storm surge, wave action and erosion of the Siesta Key coastline.
Members expressed concerns about risk of increased wave action, subsequent beach and shoreline erosion, property damage and reduction of use for existing shoreline. The added uncertain environmental and wildlife impacts were also noted and include adverse impact to the Big Pass sea grass bed restoration, disruption of protected bird and turtle species nesting, water quality deterioration and endangerment of manatees traveling the natural Pass channels for food and breeding. See the Comprehensive Inlet Management Plan (PDF format).
With concerns about unintended consequences of this project, we recommended our Board of County Commissioners review the ACOE plan with a completely independent peer review process. We consider an independent review to be one conducted by experts that have no potential gain in obtaining work from approval of this project as currently described.
Sarasota County Natural Resources staff recently identified the ACOE groin placement will partially occur on county-owned park property. As such, we asked the BCC to provide a quasi-judicial review of the Plan with a formal public input process. As of this writing, the BCC will review this project and currently awaits additional ACOE documents, environmental impact information, natural resources review and County Comprehensive Plan consistency review.
Siesta Key Association supports:
- A public input process through our Board of County Commissioners. This would allow county residents to participate fully with a greater opportunity for discussion by residents and staff.
- An independent coastal engineering assessment of the ACOE Plan (peer review).
- No dredging of the Big Pass ebb shoal or Big Pass channels as presented by the ACOE.
NOTE: The anticipated BCC public hearing is now scheduled for late March of 2014.