With no comment, the Sarasota County Commission on Aug. 21 voted unanimously to grant a permanent utility easement to Florida Power and Light Co. for “the construction, operation, and maintenance” of underground and above-ground electrical utility facilities to accommodate the planned stormwater treatment system for the Siesta Key Public Beach.
During the commission’s budget workshop on Aug. 20, Public Works Department Project Manager Carolyn Eastwood explained the easement would be needed to accommodate a pad, transformer and electrical connection for the ultraviolet light-treatment system for the stormwater project.
An Aug. 21 memo to the commission from Public Works Director James K. Harriott Jr. pointed out, “The water quality in the drainage piping system along Beach Road near the Siesta Key Public Beach does not meet water quality standards and has impacted the Public Beach through an existing ditch outfall system to the Gulf of Mexico.”
The beach has suffered “no swim” advisories in recent years because of bacterial contamination linked to the runoff into the Gulf of Mexico.
The purpose of the stormwater project, Harriott continued, is to protect public health and safety “by meeting recreational water quality standards.”
The memo also noted, “A wet retention pond approximately one acre in size is planned for improved treatment of stormwater. In routine rain events, stormwater will drain from the pond thorough an in-ground filter vault, a stormwater pump station and an ultraviolet-light disinfection unit.”
When county staff began designing the stormwater project several years ago, it looked into discharging treated water in the Grand Canal on Siesta Key. After hearing numerous complaints from residents living along the canal, staff was able to get the necessary permits to construct an underground pipe to discharge the treated stormwater about 2,000 feet offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, as Harriott’s memo also pointed out.
The start of the $1.5 million stormwater project has been delayed most recently by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ concerns about a wood-stork foraging area of the beach that would be affected by the project.
Eastwood explained during the commission workshop that staff was continuing to work with the Corps on mitigation for the disruption of that area.