Construction of new watermain line between Siesta, Casey keys set to start this month

A Sarasota County Public Works Department illustration shows the placement of the existing and planned watermain lines connecting Siesta and Casey keys.

On a unanimous vote June 5, the Sarasota County Commission approved a $1,133,622.95 contract for the construction of a new watermain pipeline linking Siesta and Casey keys.

The cost is about $467,000 less than the estimate by the project engineer, according to a county staff memo sent to the commission.

“This has been a long time coming, so thanks for your hard work,” Commissioner Nora Patterson told Public Works Department staff after making the motion.

Construction is expected to begin this month and conclude in October, according to the memo.

The existing watermain line, installed by the Siesta Key Utility Authority across Little Sarasota Bay in the early 1970s, “is failing and needs to be replaced,” the staff memo says. “A leak was first detected in the line in 1996,” the memo adds. That leak was repaired, the memo continues, but, since then, “new leaks have occurred with increasing frequency.”

In 2006, SKUA “conveyed and transferred its real estate holdings, easements, utility lines and other infrastructure” to Sarasota County.

Lori Carroll, of the Capital Projects Office in the Public Works Department, assured the commissioners before their vote that, if and when an initiative was undertaken to reopen Midnight Pass, the county’s consultant on the watermain project was confident that the placement of the pipeline would not be an impediment.

Chairwoman Christine Robinson had raised that question during a May 23 discussion, just before the board voted to approve a Gulf Coast Setback Line variance for the project.

The pipeline would be about 35 feet below the water in the bay, Carroll said.

The staff memo notes that the alignment of the replacement watermain is a direct route from the southern end of Siesta Key to the northern end of Casey Key — about 2,700 linear feet.

During discussion that lasted less than 5 minutes, Patterson did point out that she had received a phone call from a resident on the north end of Casey Key, along the private road, who had raised questions about the project. Those questions had resulted in a couple of email exchanges regarding three questions, Patterson said:

1) Where’s the linkage going to be for the piping? 2) Are you going to be digging up our road? and 3) How much truck traffic are we going to have?

The first two answers “are perfectly benign,” Patterson continued. The linkage for the pipeline is going to be on a utility easement the county had secured “down by Stephen King’s house,” she said, referring to the best-selling novelist, and the road would not be dug up.

However, Patterson told Carroll and other county staff members, “I think it would be really good if you guys would meet not just with the King family but with some of the other folks that are going to experience truck traffic,” to let them know what to expect.

Carroll responded that once the contractor, Arrow Directional Boring Inc. of Coral Springs, had provided a schedule for the work, staff would make sure to notify the affected Casey Key residents by email, flyers, postcards or other means, “because they will see increased [truck] traffic.”

Greg Rouse, design manager in the Public Works Department, added that staff planned to meet with the affected homeowners.

At the conclusion of the vote, Commissioner Jon Thaxton drew laughter from his fellow board members when he said, “There goes the freshwater spring,” referring to one leak in the existing pipeline underwater.

Boaters had enjoyed going to the area of that leak, he said, because they thought it was a spring. “Interestingly enough,” he added, “manatees liked it as well.”