Construction of two groins on South Lido Key Beach expected to get underway in December, after completion of sand placement

Siesta Key Association leaders cite lack of pre-construction materials on FDEP website, including details about contractor’s handling of ‘marine mattresses,’ which can weigh close to 10 tons each  

This is a view of the renourished section of Lido Key Beach as of Oct. 17. Image courtesy of Michael Holderness

With the placement of new sand on the Lido Key Beach tentatively expected to be completed in mid-November, the construction of two groins on the southern end of the island is anticipated to start in December, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) spokesman told The Sarasota News Leader this week.

The contractor, Cottrell Contracting Corp. of Chesapeake, Va., will begin the staging for the groin work “sometime in November but won’t actually be operating on the beach till sometime in December,” David Ruderman, a USACE spokesman in the agency’s Jacksonville District Office, wrote in an Oct. 22 email.

“They expect to be done working on the beach in April [2021],” Ruderman continued, “but they build a little extra time into the schedule for flexibility.”

“[A]s we all know,” Ruderman added, “these dates are provisional due to possible impacts of unforeseeable weather, equipment and personnel issues.”

In anticipation of groin work for the Lido Key Hurricane and Storm Damage Reduction Project, leaders of the Siesta Key Association (SKA) sent a letter on Oct. 7 to Gregory Garis, administrator of the Beaches, Inlets and Ports Program of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), the News Leader learned.

SKA President Catherine Luckner and her husband, Robert, who is a director of the nonprofit, reminded Garis in their correspondence that they also had contacted him in June. They again noted the insufficiency of USACE documentation regarding the construction of the groins, which are designed to try to hold sand in place on the beach between subsequent renourishment initiatives.

SKA President Catherine Luckner. File photo

The FDEP permit issued in June 2018 to the USACE and the City of Sarasota for the work on Lido “lists a number of responsibilities for the contractor” in regard to the groins phase of the undertaking, the Luckners pointed out.

As a result, the Luckners noted, the SKA is concerned about several issues, including the lack of a traffic management plan involving “the delivery of the hundreds of large granite blocks [that] are needed and promised in the Environmental Protection Plan”; the “heavy truck traffic [that] will impact the roads” on Lido Key and St. Armands Key during tourist season; and traffic on the beach to haul the “marine mattresses” and armor stones that will be used in the groins.

The Luckners also asked about the plans to cover the groins with new sand, as indicated in the USACE documentation provided to FDEP through the permit application process.

A February 2006 USACE article written by Steven A. Hughes describes the marine mattresses used in groin construction as rock-filled containers made of “high-strength geogrid … Geogrid panels are laced together to form mattress-shaped baskets that are filled with small stones …”

The article explains that the typical width of a single marine mattress is about 5 feet. The length can vary up to “a recommended maximum of 35 feet,” the article adds. Mattress thickness “for heavy-duty applications exposed to waves and currents” can be up to 24 inches, it notes. “Assuming the stone fill has a volumetric weight of about 110 [pounds per cubic foot], a 35-ft-long, 5-ft-wide, 1-ft-thick mattress weighs approximately 9.6 tons,” the article notes.

This is a portion of a marine mattress used in groin construction. Image courtesy USACE

Drilling down into the permit specifications

In their letter to Garis, the Luckners pointed to Specific Condition No. 5 in the revised FDEP permit for the project, which was issued on April 10. That says, “For each construction event under this permit, no work shall commence until the Permittee [the USACE] has satisfactorily submitted all information specified in this condition. At least 30 days prior to the commencement of construction, the Permittee shall submit [a list of required] items for review by the Department. Unless otherwise notified by the Department within 15 days of receipt of all information specified … the Permittee shall assume the submittals are satisfactory …”
Among the required items are the following [FDEP emphasis]: “An electronic copy of detailed final construction plans and specifications for all activities to be conducted under the upcoming event. The plans and specifications shall be consistent with the project description of this permit and the attached permit drawings, and shall also be certified by a professional engineer (P.E.), who is registered in the State of Florida. The Permittees shall point out any deviations from the Project Description of this permit (as stated above) or the approved permit drawings (attached to this permit), and any significant changes would require a permit modification. The plans and specifications shall include a description of the construction methods to be utilized and drawings and surveys that show all biological resources and work spaces (e.g., anchoring areas, staging areas, boat or vehicular access corridors, etc.) to be used for this project. The final plans and specifications submitted under this condition shall comply with all conditions set forth in this permit.”

In their Oct. 7 letter, the Luckners added, with their own emphasis, “FDEP must require submittal of a groin construction plan, review it and take no exception to the plan. FEDP should also post it for public reference as a preconstruction submittal.”

Copies of the SKA letter also went to each of the Sarasota County commissioners.

On Oct. 21, Robert Luckner notified the News Leader that the SKA had received a response from Garis, which Luckner included in an email.

“Thank you for your letter expressing concern regarding the anticipated construction of the 2 rock groins at the south end of Lido Key” Garis wrote. “The construction of these groins is authorized by Joint Coastal Permit No. 0333315-003-JN. The most recent permit drawings for the groins can be found in the plans and specifications submitted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as part of the pre-construction submittals,” Garis added, including a link to those materials:

That link provided the engineering drawings that the USACE included in its December 2019 solicitation for bids for the Lido Key Hurricane and Storm Damage Reduction Project. Among them are detailed plans for the two groins.

This engineering drawing in the USACE’s December 2019 solicitation for the Lido Beach Hurricane and Storm Damage Reduction Project shows the planned location of two groins on South Lido, just north of the county’s Ted Sperling Park. Image courtesy U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Garis continued in his letter, “The Joint Coastal Permit does not regulate traffic plans for delivery of material to the site. That is usually handled by the Local Sponsor of the project. (The City of Sarasota is that sponsor.) It is anticipated that the southern staging and access area will be used for construction of the groins,” Garis noted, referring to Sarasota County’s Ted Sperling Park on South Lido.

USACE specifications

The section of the USACE December 2019 solicitation that pertains to the groins says, “The Contractor shall be responsible for determining and documenting the pre-construction condition of existing structures within the work area including staging site(s) and work and access areas/roads. The CONTRACTOR shall take appropriate measures to prevent damage to any structures during construction.”

The solicitation also points out that the contractor is allowed to deliver the equipment, materials and personnel by barge. Further, it notes, “The Contractor shall monitor access areas used in the transportation of assembled marine mattresses and keep roads and access free of dirt and unacceptable material at all times and repair damages caused by their operations. The accesses must be restored to the pre-construction condition upon project completion at the cost of the Contractor.”

It further points out that transportation of the construction equipment and materials along the beach “is restricted to daylight hours only.”

Additionally, the solicitation makes it clear that cranes and draglines will be used in the groin construction.

A crane is used to install a marine mattress on the coast of New Jersey. Image courtesy USACE

Although the News Leader last week asked FDEP public information officers for comments on the SKA’s concerns, the publication had received no response by its deadline for this week’s issues.