Longboat’s inlet management plan alarms Siesta residents

An existing PAG (permeable and adjustable groin) on Longboat Key (Norman Schimmel photo)

Because aspects of the inlet management plan approved by the Town of Longboat Key and the Manatee County Commission could adversely affect areas south of Longboat Key, members of the Siesta Key Association and the Boaters Coalition in Sarasota County are seeking support to block funding for aspects of the project.

SKA Vice President Peter van Roekens alerted Siesta residents to the potential problems during his organization’s April 5 meeting.

The inlet management plan calls for permeable groins on the southern part of Longboat Key, van Roekens pointed out. “Now that’s a very dangerous thing for us (on Siesta),” he added.

“When you mess with an inlet,” he said, referring to Big Pass, “who knows what’s going to happen. Hardened structures are a real serious problem.”

When SKA board member Michael Shay asked whether the groins would be new or replacement structures, van Roekens said they would be new. The goal is to stop erosion on Longboat Key, he added.

Sand accumulates on one side of a groin, he said, while it erodes from the other side of the structure.

The only Manatee County commissioner to oppose the inlet management plan was Joe McClash, van Roekens said, adding that McClash, as a boater, understood the potential for problems with the passes.

Van Roekens had email addresses for Charles Listowski, executive director of the West Coast Inland Navigation District; and Elizabeth Yongue, permit manager for the Southwest Florida Beach Erosion Control Program of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, for any SKA member who wished to write to voice disapproval of the inlet management plan.

During the April 2 meeting of the Longboat Town Commission, Town Manager Dave Bullock reported that the WCIND board on March 30 unanimously had approved the town and Manatee County’s request for DEP to support the inlet management plan. WCIND had sent a letter to that effect to the state agency, he added.

That would be helpful to the town and Manatee County in winning state permits and funding, “if any (funding) becomes available (for the project),” Bullock added.

Elizabeth Yongue sent a letter, dated April 6, to the Town of Longboat Key to acknowledge receipt of its application on March 7 for a Joint Coastal Permit. She noted that the application “includes activities that were not evaluated in the Inlet Management Study of Longboat Pass and Adjacent Beaches,” prepared in October 2011 by Coastal Planning and Engineering Inc.

Among those activities, she added, were “the alternative to locate the terminal groin further south along the shoreline (i.e., not at the northernmost end of Longboat Key adjacent to the Longboat Pass inlet shoreline); the alternative to construct only the North PAG [permeable and adjustable groin] during the initial construction phase, then based upon monitoring to construct the South PAG at one of two optional locations”; and “the alternative to construct a rubble-mound design instead of the precast concrete crib design of the permeable and adjustable groins (PAGs).”

Yongue added that although DEP had expected refinements to the final design of the structures, “major changes in the proposed construction were not expected.”

“More importantly,” Yongue wrote, the CPE study “does not provide adequate engineering data to complete the permit application.”

Additionally, she wrote, “the use of a rubble-mound design in the construction of the ‘permeable’ groins cannot be recommended for approval. Notwithstanding the ‘notch’ provided near the seaward end of the groins, the rubble-mound design is expected to cause significant downdrift erosion that cannot be mitigated.”

Yongue did acknowledge in her letter that the department had received further information from CPE on March 29 regarding the study. However, she said, staff was unable to complete a review of that material prior to the April 4 deadline for its response to the Joint Coastal Permit application. The department would comment on that additional information within 30 days of the March 29 receipt date, she added.

During the March 27 Manatee County Commission meeting, Commissioner Michael Gallen asked staff what assurances the board had that, if the groins were constructed, they would not need to be removed in 30 years, because they had proven to be a mistake.

Bullock pointed out that the Town of Longboat Key was in the process of adjusting two permeable groins already in place on the island, south of Longboat Pass.

“They are trapping sand on the updrift side,” Bullock said, though not enough sand is getting through on the downdrift side.

The two existing groins, he added, “give us a decade or more of history” of how sand is accumulating or eroding on either side of them.

The new proposed PAGs, he said, also would allow such fine-tuning and enable engineers “to react to drift conditions ….”

WCIND, DEP email addresses provided

Siesta Key Association Vice President Peter van Roekens has provided the following email addresses for staff at the West Coast Inland Navigation District and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, for any person wishing to weigh in on the inlet management plan proposed by the Town of Longboat Key and the Manatee County Commission.

• Charles Listowski  WCIND200@aol.com, executive director, West Coast Inland Navigation District

• Elizabeth Yongue  Elizabeth.Yongue@dep.state.fl.us, Southwest Florida permit manager,
 Beach Erosion Control Program, Department of Environmental Protection, Bureau of Beaches and Coastal Systems