FDEP has begun 15-day formal review of final construction documents for Lido Key Hurricane and Storm Damage Reduction Project

City of Sarasota and Army Corps of Engineers to be notified if any concerns arise, with dredging still set to start about July 6

Lido Key Beach is expected to receive new sand later this summer. Photo courtesy City of Sarasota

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) has received all the required pre-construction documents for the Lido Key Hurricane and Storm Damage Reduction Project, The Sarasota News Leader has learned.

The last of the materials were filed on June 4, FDEP spokeswoman Dee Ann Miller told the News Leader in a June 10 email. Therefore, department staff members figuratively “started the clock” for the formal 15-day review period, Miller added.

Sarasota City Engineer Alexandrea DavisShaw confirmed for the News Leader that she had received the same information from FDEP, with the review to end on June 19.

“The permit remains valid and the Permittees will be made aware if the Department or FWC [Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission] has concern with any of the pre-construction submittals,” Miller wrote in her email.

FDEP issued the permit for the Lido project in June 2018. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the City of Sarasota were the applicants.

In his June 5 newsletter, Sarasota City Manager Tom Barwin pointed out that the Lido Key Hurricane and Storm Damage Reduction project “has been decades in the making …”

As the News Leader previously has reported, the dredging of Big Sarasota Pass “is slated to begin July 6,” Barwin noted.

“Expect to see the contactor, Cottrell Contracting Corp., moving equipment soon,” he added. “To minimize the amount of driving on the beach, both the north access point (near the Lido Pavilion) and south access point (in a small portion of Ted Sperling Park) will be used for staging,” Barwin continued.

This engineering drawing in the December 2019 USACE solicitation package for the Lido project shows the two borrow areas in Big Pass. Image courtesy U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The USACE announced on March 19 that it had awarded the Lido bid to Cottrell, which is based in Chesapeake, Va. Yet, it was not until June 5, the News Leader learned, that the federal government website on which the USACE published its Lido solicitation formally announced that the award went to Cottrell.

“Crews plan to begin on the south end [of Lido Beach] and move northward,” Barwin continued in his newsletter. Sand is to be pumped on the beach 24 hours a day, seven days a week, he added, “as with previous beach restoration projects.” Further, he wrote, “The contractor expects to finish with the sand in November, then in December begin constructing the groins, which will absorb wave action and slow natural beach erosion.”

David Ruderman, a spokesman for the USACE in its Jacksonville District Office, earlier had told the News Leader that the two groins planned for the southern part of the Lido project area would have to be constructed after the end of sea turtle nesting season, which concludes officially on Oct. 31.

That is a requirement of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which issued the required Biological Opinion for the Lido initiative.

The groins also have been planned to try to hold sand in place between subsequent renourishments of Lido Beach.

During a March 2016 County Commission meeting, City Engineer DavisShaw told the board members she anticipated that subsequent sand placement might not be necessary more often than every seven years. However, in his June 5 newsletter, City Manager Barwin noted, “This renourishment … will be the first project under the long-term agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Future renourishments will occur every 3 to 5 years or as needed depending upon the severity of erosion and threat to nearby infrastructure. As required with the approved permitting for this project, the area will be monitored closely, and we will be prepared to make adjustments if necessary.”

This engineering drawing in the USACE’s December 2019 solicitation package shows the planned location of two groins on South Lido, just north of the county’s Ted Sperling Park. Along with placing new sand on the Lido Beach, the USACE contractor would construct the groins. The section of the map with cross hatches is the staging area in Sperling Park. Image courtesy U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The FDEP permit is valid for 15 years.

As for the staging in the county’s Sperling Park: An agreement executed between the city and Sarasota County in late January included specific insurance requirements for the contractor before it could plan on that access to the beach. The park is on the southernmost point of Lido Key.

Among other stipulations, the agreement calls for the staging area to be “restored to its original or better condition” after the contractor has no more need of it. That restoration must be completed by May 31, 2021.

Barwin concluded his newsletter note with “[a] big thank you to City Engineer Alex DavisShaw,” pointing out that she “has worked for many years with the USACE, Florida Department of Environmental Protection and residents to bring this complex federal, state and local project to fruition. As we work to reopen and recover from the [novel coronavirus] pandemic, I can’t think of a better time to rebuild the beach!”

Other submittal documents

On May 18, Miller of FDEP told the News Leader that one of the final permit requirements remaining to be fulfilled for the Lido undertaking was submission of details regarding the monitoring of water turbidity in conjunction with the dredging.

Although the state permit allows Cottrell Contracting to remove up to 1.3 million cubic yards of sand from borrow areas in Big Pass, the solicitation materials the USACE published in December 2019 said that 710,000 cubic yards would be placed on Lido Beach.

Condominium towers on South Lido Key are easily visible across Big Pass on the evening of June 7, 2018. File photo

Documents filed with FDEP as the USACE and the city went through the permitting process indicated that sediment essentially would be lost in the water, resulting in cloudiness, or turbidity, which can be harmful to sea life.

In reviewing the pre-construction submittals in the Lido project’s permit folder, which is available on FDEP’s website, the News Leader found a document from Dial Cordy and Associates Inc. that provided details about the turbidity monitoring. The firm’s website says it is headquartered in Jacksonville Beach.

“If turbidity levels measured at compliance sites exceed [the applicable standards],” the document points out, “construction activities will cease immediately and not resume until corrective measures have been implemented and turbidity has returned to acceptable levels.”

“Turbidity monitoring will be conducted at least three (3) times daily, approximately four (4) hours apart during dredging and fill placement activity [the actual widening of the beach], and at any other time that there is a likelihood of an exceedance of the turbidity standard,” the document notes.

It references FDEP’s “Standard Operating Protocol” for the monitoring.

“A map indicating sampling locations, dredging/discharge locations, and direction of flow will be provided for each sample collected,” the document adds.

The document lists seven persons whom Dial Cordy says “will be tasked” with the monitoring. The firm provided resumes for each of them.

Among them is Robert Hunsaker, who participated in a number of studies following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, his resume notes.

This graphic is a sample turbidity monitoring map included in the Dial Cordy and Associates document filed with FDEP. Image courtesy FDEP

Another document added to the Lido folder, dated May 21, regards the necessary Marine Turtle Permit from the FWC.

That provides details about the relocation of nests during the current season, referencing monuments that are used to denote specific shoreline locations.

It also lists 23 persons authorized to handle the activities.

Yet another document in the Lido folder is the Environmental Protection Plan submitted by Cottrell Contracting Corp.

Among the details it provides, it says, “Upon mobilization of dredging components, work area limits for staging areas, dredging areas, pipeline routes and Disposal Areas will be clearly identified and adhered to as specified and in accordance with the issued permits and specifications. Any observed bird nesting activity will be reported immediately to [a] USACE representative who shall have sole authority on work stoppages. If necessary, a Buffer Zone will be established around any location where migratory birds or shorebirds have been engaged in courtship or nesting behavior, or where migrants congregate in significant numbers.”

For the past few months, Kylie Wilson, coordinator of Audubon Florida’s Bird Monitoring & Stewardship Program in Sarasota County, has been documenting the nesting activities on Lido of least terns and black skimmers. In her May 31 report, for example, she noted more than 60 least tern chicks and about 35 nests.

This is the colony of black skimmers on Lido Key. Photo by Lou Newman, via Kylie Wilson

However, in her June 7 report, she wrote about severe flooding in the least tern nesting area, which resulted from the storms produced by Tropical Storm Cristobal during its passage through the Gulf of Mexico. “Likely any nests that remained were lost,” she added.

The black skimmer colony, she reported, is closer to the public beach, and the skimmers “appeared to be relatively unaffected by the storm.”