Camera system planned on Lido and Siesta buildings to enable Army Corps of Engineers to collect long-term data on wave conditions and shoreline changes

Similar study underway on North Carolina coastline

Two camera stations have been installed on the roof of Lido Harbour South, which is located on south Lido Key Beach. Image from Google Maps

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) hopes to use cameras mounted on condominium towers on both South Lido Key Beach and the northern end of Siesta Key to facilitate a long-range study of the coastline dynamics involving both barrier islands, The Sarasota News Leader has learned.

A section of the solicitation package published in December 2019 for the Lido Key Hurricane and Storm Damage Reduction Project explains, “A camera system is being deployed for this project on the south end of Lido Key and the north end of Siesta Key to observe wave conditions and beach changes. This data will be used to validate computer modeling efforts associated with capturing wave and beach changes before and after construction. The data will be available to the public and may include images of active dredging and beach placement work during construction.”

The information was not included in the original USACE solicitation package for the Lido initiative, which was published in May 2019 and ultimately cancelled in early August 2019 after the USACE reported that the two bids it received were “unreasonably high.”

Offers were due on the afternoon of Feb. 27 on the new Lido Key Hurricane and Storm Damage Reduction Project solicitation. (The News Leader plans to publish information in its March 6 issue about the opening of the bids.)

In response to a News Leader request for information about the inclusion of the shoreline monitoring plans in the December 2019 solicitation package, David Ruderman, a spokesman for the USACE at its Jacksonville District Office, wrote in a Feb. 21 email: “To be clear, this camera system is not being deployed to observe the dredging and is not a requirement of the [Florida Department of Environmental Protection] FDEP permit related to the project.”

“When the contract was re-advertised,” Ruderman continued, “our Office of Counsel required that Offerors be warned prior to submitting their bids because the cameras will most likely capture some of the dredging operations depending on where the dredge is located in the borrow area.”

The USACE proposal calls for the removal of up to 1.3 million cubic yards of sand from two borrow areas in Big Sarasota Pass, which lies between Lido and Siesta keys.

“We have already installed two camera stations on Lido Key at Lido Harbour South (roof top) and are planning to install additional camera stations at Whispering Sands (roof top) on Siesta Key,” Ruderman added.

Lido Harbour South stands at 2110 Benjamin Franklin Drive in Sarasota.

Two towers stand on the Whispering Sands property. Image from the Whispering Sands website

The entrance to Whispering Sands is off Ocean Boulevard on the northern end of Siesta Village. The complex’s website says the property has 267 units on approximately 25 acres. The website adds, “The Whispering Sands Community is made up of two high-rise towers, three mid-rise buildings and fifty-one individual villas.”

Representatives of Whispering Sands declined comment for this story.

Asked how the USACE plans to share the data from the cameras with the public, Ruderman responded, “U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) is developing a website to make all of the imagery public and downloadable. We are a year or two out from this being a reality. Right now imagery is captured and used in scientific models. Some raw imagery can be emailed to members of the public upon request.”

A news release by USACE Public Affairs Officer Carol C. Coleman on Feb. 21 explains the operations of an ERDC Field Research Facility (FRF) in the town of Duck on North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

“Founded in 1977, the FRF has maintained a comprehensive, long-term monitoring program of the coastal ocean, including waves, tides, currents, local meteorology and the associated beach response,” Coleman wrote. “As such, it has become an internationally recognized observatory and premier location for conducting complex and comprehensive nearshore research and engineering studies.

This is the pier at the USACE research facility in Duck, N.C. Image courtesy USACE

“‘The FRF is predominantly a coastal observation facility,’ said Dr. Jeff Waters, chief of the Coastal Observation and Analysis Branch located at the FRF,” in the article. “‘We have the longest continuous operating record of waves in the world and the longest continuing beach profile data set in the world,’” Waters continued.

“The facility itself consists of a 1,840-foot steel and concrete pier, a main office, several field support buildings and a 140-foot observation tower as well as specialized vehicles such as the Coastal Research Amphibious Buggy and the Lighter Amphibious Resupply Cargo vehicle,” the release added. “These capabilities have led to many multi-agency, multi-investor collaborations resulting in Duck beach becoming the best-studied beach in the world.”

In its conclusion, the article quoted Waters again: “We now have the capability of collecting enough data here that we could do some basic research on wave physics and on sediment transport and I think that that’s an area that could be identified in the future for our research efforts.

“And then, again, to continue to be able to export what we learn here in the form of remote sensing tools that will allow our districts to be able to gather data that they cannot gather now.”

Sediment transport has been a major focus of concern since the USACE first unveiled its design for the Lido Beach renourishment project. Siesta Key residents have voiced worries that two groins to be constructed to try to hold the sand in place on the southern part of the project area will disrupt the traditional north-south flow of sediment, starving Siesta Key’s public beach.