Dredging continues in Big Pass, with more turbidity exceedances documented
As dredging continues in Big Sarasota Pass for the renourishment of Lido Key Beach, the Sarasota City Commission this week took a step to try to secure state funding for future projects to keep the Lido shoreline stable.
A staff memo provided to the commissioners in advance of their regular meeting on Aug. 17 explained that, each year, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) receives funding requests for shoreline management and inlet management projects. Because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) designed the Lido Key Hurricane and Storm Damage Reduction Project as a 50-year initiative, the memo continued, the city is eligible for a 50% match for its local cost.
Further, the memo noted, “FDEP is requiring an inlet management plan as part of our New Pass permit for use of [New Pass] sand for future Lido Beach renourishment …” The city also can request grant funds for production of that plan, the memo added.
Both the original USACE Lido project manager and Sarasota City Engineer Alexandrea DavisShaw talked years ago about the potential of alternating removal of sand from New Pass and Big Pass for stabilizing the Lido shoreline. In permit application materials filed with FDEP in 2015, the USACE indicated that subsequent renourishments would be necessary approximately every five years. The FDEP permit awarded the city and the USACE in June 2018 is good for 15 years.
The staff memo for the Aug. 17 City Commission meeting also pointed out that a requirement of the new grant application for FDEP is commission approval of a resolution “reflecting support of and funding for the requested project.”
The city uses Tourist Development Tax — or “bed tax” — revenue from Sarasota County to cover its share of the expense for the work on Lido.
The commissioners unanimously approved the resolution in voting on the Consent Agenda No. 2 items on Aug. 17.
The resolution points out that the federal government reauthorized the shore protection project for Lido Key in 1999, with a 50-year commitment.
Further, it says that on July 14, 2005, “the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Water Resources Development Act of 2005,” and the U.S. Senate approved the bill on July 18, 2006. Section 3039 of that act includes the Lido Key Hurricane and Storm Damage Reduction Project, noting that it should be constructed “substantially in accordance with the report of the [USACE] Chief of Engineers,” the resolution continues.
Additionally, the resolution says the “City Commission supports the Inlet Management plan for New Pass for which funding is requested from the State of Florida” and that the commission “is able to serve as joint sponsor for these projects and is able to provide the appropriate local funding share to implement these projects.”
Included in the board’s Aug. 17 agenda packet with the proposed resolution was a copy of the June 23 draft of the latest city Capital Improvement Plan. The relevant page shows the city has budgeted $1,669,000 out of its Tourist Development Tax beach renourishment funds for continued work on Lido. The final portion of that money, shown in the 2024-25 fiscal year, is noted as $570,000.
The state grant funds tentatively allocated would total $3,293,000, the document also says, while the federal portion included was put at $10,746,000. The largest part of the latter — $1,140,000 — is noted for the 2024-25 fiscal year.
However, the chart points out, “Federal and State Grants in out-years are pending Federal and State approvals.”
Continued turbidity issues in Big Pass
As The Sarasota News Leader reported on Aug. 7, leaders of the Siesta Key Association (SKA) voiced frustration in July with a delay in FDEP’s required posting of reports regarding turbidity produced by the dredging of Big Pass, which began on July 18.
Finally, after sending multiple emails to Gregory Garis, administrator of FDEP’s Beaches, Inlets, and Ports Program, Garis responded on the morning of Aug. 6 that the employee charged with getting the reports online was starting to get them posted.
SKA leaders told Garis they had heard of two exceedances of turbidity limits. Subsequent reports indicated five incidents through the end of July, the News Leader found.
“Turbidity” refers to cloudiness in a body of water. Too much turbidity inhibits sunlight from reaching organisms in the water that need light to survive.
After seeing no new reports for a couple of weeks, the News Leader contacted FDEP to ask about the lack of regularity in the postings.
On Aug. 19, Alexandra Kuchta of FDEP’s South District Office responded in an email, “[R]eports for this project are submitted to the Department on a weekly basis. Once received, Department staff review the submittals for quality assurance before being uploaded to [an online FDEP portal].”
Kuchta added, “Staff will continue to work as quickly as possible to ensure submittals are timely made available to the public in our Oculus Database.”
In reviewing the most recent reports available — through Aug. 13 — the News Leaderfound no further indication of turbidity exceedance. However, one of the Aug. 13 reports said the dredge owned by the contractor for the Lido project — Cottrell Contracting Corp. of Chesapeake, Va. — had to shut down at 2:45 p.m. that day “due to equipment malfunction. Dredge had not begun working at [4:10 p.m.] No samples taken.”
An earlier report — dated July 31 — noted, “Visible plume, sample collected [at] 150 [meters] downcurrent of disposal in densest portion of plume. Dredge had been down from [2:10 p.m. to 3 p.m.].”