City and Army Corps of Engineers still planning on long-range project starting in September
“Those heading out to Lido Beach will enjoy a refreshed beach, which is now providing a much needed buffer between the Gulf of Mexico and nearby public infrastructure,” Sarasota City Manager Tom Barwin reported in his Jan. 25 newsletter.
The emergency renourishment project that is underway — using sand from the New Pass channel — was approximately 40% completed by the end of last week, Barwin noted, “and the results are calming and providing us with a great amount of relief.”
Crews with Coastal Dredging of Hammond, La., had completed the area of the beach adjacent to the Lido Pavilion and concession stand, Barwin added, and they were continuing to work southward, averaging about 150 feet of shoreline a day.
“Before and after photos highlight the critical need to restore this buffer, which also is home to much sea life, including turtles and wading birds,” he wrote
“Even without tropical weather directly impacting the Sarasota area last summer, the beach erosion was significant,” Barwin continued. “Going into hurricane season in June, Lido Beach will be restored and we will be in a much safer position to be protected from whatever Mother Nature brings.”
Further, Barwin wrote, representatives of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) have told city leaders the federal agency is “on track to begin the proposed long-term renourishment project in September and “then replace sand on an as-needed basis rather than waiting for the beach to erode to a critically dangerous point.”
The city and the USACE received a 15-year permit last summer from the Florida Department of Environmental Development (FDEP) to undertake project. The first USACE project manager told community leaders that he anticipated subsequent renourishments every five years, even though the undertaking would include the construction of two groins on South Lido to try to keep the new sand in place.
Because Big Sarasota Pass would be the source of sand for at least the first renourishment in the long-term initiative, two nonprofit organizations based on Siesta Key — Save Our Siesta Sand 2 (SOSS2) and the Siesta Key Association (SKA) — have filed legal challenges to try to prevent the city and the USACE from removing up to 1.3 million cubic yards of sand from the pass. SOSS2 has filed a complaint against the USACE in U.S. District Court in the Middle District of Florida, and the SKA is pursuing action against the city in the 12th Judicial Circuit Court.
A Circuit Court judge twice has dismissed the SKA’s case, but the nonprofit filed its second amended complaint against the city on Jan. 25. (See the related article in this issue.)
“Once again,” Barwin continued in the newsletter, “we pledge to collaborate with all interested parties to monitor the shorelines, boating channels and environment at unprecedented levels and adapt to the threat of rising sea levels.”
During the Jan. 17 meeting of Sarasota County’s Tourist Development Council (TDC), Doreen Buonpastore, a fiscal analyst in the county’s Office of Financial Management, reported that the expense of the long-range Lido Renourishment Project would be about $21 million. That was the information she had received, she said, from City Engineer Alexandrea DavisShaw. About 19% of the money will come from Tourist Development Tax revenue allocated to the city for such efforts, Buonpastore added.
She showed the TDC members a chart with the fund balances for the various Tourist Development Tax (TDT) revenue accounts at the end of the 2018 fiscal year, which was Sept. 30, 2018. The City of Sarasota had $4,318,983 set aside for beach maintenance.
Then, turning to the adopted TDT budget for the current fiscal year, Buonpastore noted that the city expects to spend $4,190,000 on the long-range Lido project.
About 62% of the money for that initiative is expected to come from the federal government, USACE and city representatives have pointed out. FDEP has planned to match the city’s contribution to the project.
The TDT revenue comes from a 5% tax imposed on rentals of accommodations in the county for six months or less.