State to provide approximately $3.3 million
Without discussion this week, the Sarasota City Commission unanimously approved an agreement with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) for the state to provide the city $3,293,168.78 for both an emergency project and a long-term initiative to renourish the South Lido Key Beach.
The matter was part of the city’s Consent Agenda I on July 2, which included routine business items.
The copy of the Grant Work Plan in the July 2 meeting backup material says, “The Project consists of the design, construction and monitoring of a beach hurricane recovery project followed by sand placement for the federal beach nourishment …” It points out that “hurricane recovery nourishment to repair damages sustained during Tropical Storm Debby was completed in 2015 with funding from FEMA [the Federal Emergency Management Agency]. Subsequent hurricane recovery nourishment to repair damages sustained during hurricanes Hermine and Irma is scheduled for FY 2018-19,” it continues, “with funding from FEMA. The USACE federal nourishment is scheduled for FY 2019-20.”
The Grant Work Plansays the project location is between shoreline reference monuments R31 and R44. The FDEP permit granted last month for the proposed long-term city/U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project specifies the location of that initiative as being between monuments R-35 and R-44. However, when City Manager Tom Barwin declared a State of Emergency on May 30 on Lido because of further storm damage, the declaration cited sections from R31 to R33 and from R37 to R44.2. The latter segment is the “south half of Lido Beach,” the declaration noted.
Even before Barwin declared the State of Emergency, the city had been working with FDEP to remove sand from New Pass for an emergency project on Lido. The city has a joint permit with the Town of Longboat Key to alternate use of sand from that pass for renourishment initiatives. The emergency project is expected to cost between $2 million and $3 million, City Engineer Alexandrea DavisShaw told The Sarasota News Leader. On May 29, she added in an email to the News Leader that city staff expects the work “to be under construction in October.”
A subsequent city document, provided to FDEP in early June, put the expense of the Irma/Hermine Emergency Project at $3.5 million, with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to pay $800,000 and the city and FDEP to pay $1,350,000 each. That noted the 2018/19 timeline.
The city and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) have planned a 50-year project to remove sand primarily from Big Sarasota Pass to renourish an area comprising approximately 1.6 miles on South Lido.
On June 11, the USACE announced that it had included $13,462,000 in its Fiscal Year 2018 Work Plan for the long-term project. In response to a Sarasota News Leader question, Susan Jackson, public information officer for the USACE at its Jacksonville District Office, wrote in a June 26 email that the funds do not have to be used by a specific time. However, she added, “Jacksonville District strives to obligate our allocated work-plan funds in a timely manner.”
The funding announcement came exactly a week before FDEP Secretary Noah Valenstein filed the Final Order in a Florida Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH) case, in which the Siesta Key Association (SKA), Save Our Siesta Sand 2 (SOSS2) and three Siesta Key residents challenged the proposal to remove sand from Big Pass for the long-term project. In that Final Order, Valenstein primarily upheld the May 8 Recommended Order of the administrative law judge who presided over the case. On the basis of evidence and testimony in the DOAH proceeding, Judge Bram D.E. Canter wrote that the joint city/USACE permit should be modified to prevent the dredging of Big Pass from April to September, so as not to disrupt the spawning season of the spotted sea trout. He further limited the amount of sand to a maximum of 1.3 million cubic yards.
Valenstein also granted the permit for the joint City of Sarasota/USACE project.
In response to another News Leader question, Jackson of the USACE wrote, “Due to the ongoing litigation,” she was unable to provide even a tentative timeline for the long-term Lido project. However, replying to another question, she acknowledged that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a Biological Opinion in December 2016 — as part of the FDEP permitting process for the city and the USACE — saying that two groins planned on South Lido could not be constructed during turtle-nesting season.“No groin construction between May 1 and October 31, and only during daylight hours between April 15-30, and Nov 1-11,” Jackson wrote in the June 26 email.
Delving into the financial details
The FDEP document provided to the City Commission in advance of its July 2 meeting says FDEP “has determined that 100 percent of the non-federal Project cost is eligible for state cost sharing. Therefore, the Department’s financial obligation shall not exceed the sum of $3,293,168.78 for this Project or up to 50 percent of the non-federal Project cost …”
In a June 4 vote, the City Commission reaffirmed to FDEP that it remained committed to the USACE project. At that time, a chart in the agenda material estimated the construction cost of the USACE project at $21 million, with $13,020,000 expected from the federal government and $3,990,000 to come from both FDEP and the city. The federal portion of the design expense for the project was pegged at $434,000 in the 2018-19 fiscal year, the chart said. The construction timeline was noted as 2019/20. Thus, federal design and construction cost-sharing together would total $13,454,000 — slightly under the amount the USACE announced on June 11.
During workshops last week regarding the city’s 2019 fiscal year budget, Kelly Strickland, the city’s director of financial administration, reminded the commissioners that the city’s share of the expense for the long-range project would come out of Sarasota County Tourist Development Tax (TDT) revenue set aside for the city for beach renourishment and maintenance.
The TDT revenue expected to be available for the 2019 fiscal year is $4,192,917, Strickland said, with expenditures put at the same amount. The estimated ending fund balance as of Sept. 30, 2019, she noted, is $2,890,181.
The document provided to the City Commission in advance of its July 2 meeting said that funds have been divvied up for design, construction and monitoring authorized as of Jan. 1, 2015. The work must be completed by March 31, 2021, the document adds.