Sarasota County administrator says his commission will not need to decide for several months whether it wants to follow through with project on its side of Manasota Key
Later this month, a coastal engineering consultant working with Charlotte County is expected to provide updated material to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), reflecting the Sarasota County Commission’s recent decision to become a co-applicant with Charlotte County for a permit for a Manasota Key renourishment project.
Then, late this year or early in January 2019, the Sarasota County Commission will have to decide whether it will indeed collaborate on the initiative and cover the cost of its share of the undertaking.
In March, when the Sarasota and Charlotte county commissions conducted a routine joint meeting, they heard an update from a consultant regarding his work on the beach renourishment project for the portion of Manasota Key that is within Charlotte County.
Michael E. Poff of Coastal Engineering Consultants in Naples pointed out of Manasota Key’s beach, “The more sand you put up,” the better the renourishment project will perform. If the Sarasota County Commission works with Charlotte County, he added, the new sand would be expected to stay in place longer, which also would “save a lot of money.”
It took almost exactly 1 minute during the July 10 Sarasota County Commission meeting for County Administrator Jonathan Lewis to obtain unanimous board authorization for Sarasota County to become a co-applicant with Charlotte County for the necessary state Joint Coastal Permit for the renourishment of Manasota Key.
Lewis explained that he had received a request the previous week from Charlotte County for that action. “This does not obligate [Sarasota] County,” Lewis added. Not until November or December — or possibly even as late as January 2019, he said — would the Sarasota County commissioners need to decide whether to proceed with the initiative.
Nonetheless, he stressed, being a co-applicant with the Charlotte County commissioners “does not hurt us and it helps them.” Therefore, he was requesting authorization for the collaboration.
Commissioner Alan Maio made the motion to provide that authorization, and Commissioner Charles Hines seconded it. After the motion passed 5-0, Chair Nancy Detert told Lewis, “Permission granted.”
In the resulting letter, addressed to Charlotte County Administrator Ray Sandrock, Lewis wrote that Sarasota County “will continue to work with Charlotte County in developing a revised interlocal agreement that will result in additional information about the scope and budget for a possible joint project extending into Sarasota County.”
Lewis asked that Sandrock contact Laird Wreford, Sarasota County’s coastal initiatives manager, “to discuss next steps in making joint applications to the state and for any items that need attention related to the revised interlocal agreement.”
The existing interlocal agreement, dated Dec. 12, 2017, notes that “isolated segments of [Sarasota County’s] Manasota Key shoreline are also experiencing extreme erosion and the overall trend along [Sarasota County’s] Manasota Key shoreline for the past decade has been erosional …” It added that Sarasota County desired to utilize Charlotte County’s consultant for “certain portions of the work along Manasota Key in Sarasota County …”
Charlotte County’s lead
A Sarasota News Leader review of materials in the FDEP folder for the Manasota Key Beach renourishment project found that Charlotte County applied for the permit on Dec. 12, 2017.
The materials submitted by Coastal Engineering Consultants explained that the request was for a Joint Coastal Permit (JCP) for 15 years “or at least two renourishment events.”
The accompanying narrative explained that the project would provide “erosion control and shoreline stabilization measures through beach renourishment for approximately 1.9 miles of critically eroding shoreline within Manasota Key, Charlotte County …” The sand would come from offshore sources.
The description added, “According to the FDEP Critically Eroded Beaches in Florida Report (FDEP, 2016), ‘the northern 3.8 miles of Charlotte County … along southern Manasota Key including Englewood Beach and Stump Pass State Park are critically eroded threatening private development and public recreational interests.’”
The project’s design template calls for a 50-foot-wide beach — measured at the Mean High Water Line — and a maximum berm elevation of 7 feet above ground level “to provide the desired 25-year storm damage reduction benefit.”
The Sarasota County Commission’s interest in a joint project to encompass its portion of Manasota Key has grown over the past couple of years. A number of Sarasota County residents have implored the commission to renourish their part of the beach because of repeated storm damage.
During the joint meeting of the Sarasota and Charlotte county commissions on March 21, several representatives of the Englewood Chamber of Commerce emphasized the value of the beach to the community’s economy.
Englewood straddles the Sarasota County-Charlotte County line.
An analysis Coastal Engineering Consultants completed for Charlotte County in May — in preparation for the beach renourishment project — points out that Tropical Storm Colin exacerbated erosion on Sarasota County’s portion of the Manasota Key shoreline in June 2016.
The analysis explains that a Sarasota County staff assessment of erosion along Manasota Key, completed in October 2016, “reported that while the shoreline has shown variability during different periods, the overall trend for the past decade has been erosional, and recent storms have eroded isolated segments such that upland structures are vulnerable to future storm impacts in the near term.”
It added, “Subsequent to the assessment, Sarasota County has been conducting resident and stakeholder outreach to gauge community consensus in support of Manasota Key beach restoration.”
Based on comments from Sarasota County staff and Coastal Engineering Consultants’ “professional judgment and experience,” the analysis continued, “the initially proposed project … in Sarasota County would extend from R-170 to the Sarasota/Charlotte County line, where it merges with the Charlotte County Manasota Key Beach Restoration beach fill, and maintains the same design approach keeping the 50-foot wide beach measured at [the Mean High Water Line],” along with the maximum berm elevation of 7 feet.
(“R-170” refers to a location on the shoreline that has been determined by a state survey.)
The December 2017 application also noted that Sarasota and Charlotte counties “teamed together [from 2001 to 2003] to conduct a regional study on beach erosion and develop alternatives to address identified erosion problems.”
In a Jan. 24 letter to the Charlotte County Commission and Poff of Coastal Engineering Consultants, Ivana Kenny Carmola, an environmental specialist with FDEP, requested more details about the project proposal, based on the application. On July 2, she sent them another letter, noting that FDEP had not received any of the additional materials. Under state guidelines, she added, the applicants would need to submit the responses to the Request for Additional Information (RAI) by July 23 or request an extension, if they needed extra time. Otherwise, their application would be denied.
Poff replied in a July 2 email, indicating that a “full response” would be provided before July 23.
After follow-up communications with Carmola, Poff sent her a formal email on July 18, writing on behalf of Charlotte County and Sarasota County. He told her, “[W]e are respectfully requesting a one month extension” to reply to the RAI. “Sarasota County recently agreed to co-sign the application and co-sponsor seeking cost sharing for a regional project. … As such, we are actively working on updating the Project Description, Permit Drawings, and other technical support documents to extend the beach fill approximately 8,000 feet into Sarasota County.”
Poff asked that FDEP extend the firm’s response date to Aug. 23.