No further turbidity exceedances noted in most recent FDEP reports
Placement of new sand on Lido Beach was about one-third complete by Aug. 28, Sarasota City Manager Tom Barwin reported in his newsletter dated the same day.
The contractor, Cottrell Contracting Corp. of Chesapeake, Va., “has been busy pumping recycled sand since late July, helping to widen and fortify our magnificent beach,” Barwin wrote. Crews are working their way north up the shoreline from the staging area in Ted Sperling Park, “most recently approaching the Ritz-Carlton Beach Club,” Barwin added.
In all, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) called for 710,000 cubic yards of sand to be removed from Big Sarasota Pass for placement on Lido in accord with the USACE’s Lido Key Hurricane and Storm Damage Reduction Project. The USACE was co-applicant with the city for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) permit for the undertaking. That permit was issued in June 2018.
The contractor’s crew is expected to conclude the beach renourishment in late October at a location near the Lido Key Beach Recreation Trail, at the north end of the public beach, Barwin noted in his newsletter. After sea turtle nesting season has ended — officially, on Oct. 31 — construction of two groins is planned on South Lido in an effort to try to hold the sand in place between subsequent renourishments. The USACE has said those initiatives are expected about every five years. However, USACE representatives and City Engineer Alexandrea DavisShaw have talked about the potential of using sand from New Pass as an alternative to Big Pass in some of those later projects.
“Beachgoers should be mindful of the temporary fencing that is erected to close off sections of the beach where construction activities are taking place,” Barwin continued in his newsletter. “Areas south of the current work zone will continue to be opened to the public as they are completed, and pedestrian sand access ramps over the dredge pipeline have been installed for use by the public.”
Then Barwin pointed out, “As if we needed a reminder about the importance of this project, look no further than the two major storms that recently bypassed us as they churned through the Gulf of Mexico.” He was referring to Hurricanes Marco and Laura, the latter of which struck the far western Louisiana coast on Aug. 27 as a Category 4 storm.
“It could only take one storm system to have a potentially devastating impact on the Lido Key shoreline,” Barwin pointed out. “This U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project is providing a critical barrier to protect residences, infrastructure and beach wildlife for years to come. We can’t wait to see the final product!”
Having received some reports from Siesta Key regarding changes to the shoreline since the dredging of Big Pass began, The Sarasota News Leader asked City of Sarasota staff about the monitoring that FDEP requires of all beach renourishment initiatives.
In a Sept. 1 email, Jan Thornburg, the city’s senior communications manager, wrote, “A pre-construction survey was conducted and a post-construction survey also will be conducted. In the future, a survey will be conducted at least once a year.”
Thornburg added, “Any possible unintentional impacts associated with a dredging project most likely would appear once the coastal system equilibrates, which would be an extended period of time. A natural event, such as the recent [Tropical Storm]/Hurricane Laura, could prompt more immediate impacts.”
The News Leader also has received comments about a potential negative impact on sea turtle nests on Siesta Key.
In reviewing records posted by Mote Marine Laboratory, the News Leader found that, through July 18 — when the sand removal began in Big Pass — the number of nests on Siesta Key totaled 412. Another 15 nests were added the following week, and yet another 13 were discovered the week after that, putting the total then at 440.
However, the week of Aug. 2-8, the number of new nests dropped to four. For each of the following weeks — Aug. 9-15, Aug. 16-22, and Aug. 23-29 — only one new nest was recorded on Siesta. Yet, Mote’s records show decreases in nesting on the other barrier islands, as well, during those same weeks.
The total number of nests on Siesta through Aug. 29 was 447. That compares to a total of 711 through the same period in 2019 and 394 for that period in 2018.
During the News Leader’s review of the most recently filed turbidity monitoring reports for the project, dated from Aug. 21 through Aug. 27, no exceedances were documented.
Likewise, in its spot check of reports from Aug. 14 through Aug. 20, no record of an exceedance appeared.
As the News Leader has reported previously, that monitoring is underway to ensure that sand lost in the water during the dredging in Big Pass does not obscure sunlight to the extent that sea creatures that rely on that light suffer harm.
Under the conditions of the FDEP permit, if turbidity exceeds the level set by the state for specific circumstances, then construction activities must cease immediately and the state’s compliance officer must be notified within 24 hours.