City of Sarasota working on proposal to use sand from New Pass in emergency project on Lido

City manager optimistic that initiative could be undertaken ‘as early as this fall’

Big Sarasota Pass separates Lido and Siesta keys. A channel marker indicates the route boaters should take. Rachel Hackney photo

City of Sarasota staff is at work on an application for a state permit that would enable it to add about 200,000 cubic yards of sand from New Pass to South Lido Key Beach, City Manager Tom Barwin has reported.

The hope is that that project can get underway “as early as this fall,” he said, characterizing it as a “kind of emergency repair.”

A survey of New Pass is being conducted, he told the City Commission during a special meeting on Feb. 26. After that analysis has been completed, he said, staff will be able to complete the application, which will go to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP).

Under a longstanding agreement, the city and the Town of Longboat Key alternate removal of sand from New Pass for beach renourishment projects. The town last used sediment from the pass for a project it completed in the summer of 2016.

In response to a question from The Sarasota News Leader, City Engineer Alexandrea DavisShaw wrote in a March 7 email that the cost of the project “is dependent on the volume of sand dredged so I don’t have a good estimate.” However, she continued, city staff expects it to be between $2 million and $3 million. “Once we have the volume, we can refine that estimate.”

On Feb. 26, Barwin described the new city proposal as “a kind of emergency repair to the Lido shoreline,” similar to the project the city undertook to replenish sand Tropical Storm Debby washed away in June 2012.

An aerial map shows New Pass between Lido and Longboat keys. Image from Google Maps

County Commissioner Paul Caragiulo — a former city commissioner — pointed out during a March 2016 discussion involving his board that the city added about 363,000 cubic yards of sand to South Lido Key Beach in January 2015 to replenish the material eroded by Debby. However, Caragiulo added, most of that new sand was gone by April 2015.

Barwin explained on Feb. 26 that the sand from New Pass could serve as an interim remedy while city leaders await the conclusion of legal challenges to the proposed 50-year-long project to renourish about 1.6 miles of Lido Beach every five years with sand from Big Sarasota Pass.

Late on March 2, the final segments of the certified transcript of a Florida Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH) proceeding held in December 2017, regarding challenges to the dredging of Big Pass, were added to the case docket. That triggered the beginning of a 30-day window for all parties in the case to provide recommendations to the presiding judge about how he should rule. Judge Bram D.E. Canter has said he would take about 45 days to issue his decision after receiving those written briefs from the attorneys. (See the related story in this issue.)

A USACE map shows the borrow areas proposed in Big Pass. Image courtesy FDEP

In January 2017, Save Our Siesta Sand 2 and the Siesta Key Association (SKA) filed objections to the proposal to remove what was then estimated at 1.2 million cubic yards of sand from Big Pass for the initial renourishment in the 50-year project planned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) in collaboration with the City of Sarasota. (During the DOAH proceeding, expert witnesses testified that the proposal actually called for 1.7 million cubic yards of sand, as noted in FDEP documents.)

“If our plans go through,” Barwin continued on Feb. 26, “we’re probably better than a year away from getting that 50-year plan in place.”

Still, he said of the proposed temporary measure, “I hope that provides some kind relief to the commission. I know it does to the community.”

He indicated that he had communicated the proposal for the emergency project to some of the leaders of the Lido Key Residents Association, which also is a party in the DOAH proceeding.

“Alex DavisShaw will be putting the ‘pedal to the metal’ on that process,” Barwin said, referring to the Debby-type project application.

In early February, DavisShaw told the News Leader city staff also is awaiting word about an application the city submitted to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for $2.2 million for a project to replenish sand on South Lido that was washed away by Hurricane Irma in September 2017. Barwin had reported to the Lido Key Residents Association in November 2017 that Irma eroded about 37,000 cubic yards of sand from South Lido.