Lido Renourishment Project appears to be in compliance with FDEP permit requirements, FDEP administrator assures Sarasota County administrator

Army Corps of Engineers working with FDEP on how best to handle escarpments on widened beach that have resulted from tropical storm activity in Gulf 

A Sept. 12 aerial view taken by a drone shows the widened beach on Lido Key. Image courtesy of Michael Holderness

In response to an Aug. 18 letter from Sarasota County Administrator Jonathan Lewis, a senior staff member of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) has offered assurance that the department is monitoring the progress of the Lido Key Hurricane and Storm Damage Reduction Project.

“All reports and information available to [FDEP] suggest the project as being constructed, remains in compliance” with the permit the department issued to the City of Sarasota and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) in June 2018, Gregory W. Garis, administrator of FDEP’s Beaches, Inlets, and Ports Program, wrote Lewis on Aug. 19.

Directors of the Siesta Key Association (SKA) provided The Sarasota News Leader copies of the correspondence. President Catherine Luckner and her husband, Robert, have engaged in in-depth research and oversight of the project plans for a number of years.

Garis also pointed out in his letter to Lewis that FDEP staff members “are reviewing turbidity reports and providing feedback to the turbidity monitoring firm.”

Just this week, that firm, Dial Cordy and Associates Inc. of Jacksonville, submitted a document to FDEP, announcing that another person would be tasked with conducting the turbidity monitoring as Cottrell Contracting Corp. of Chesapeake, Va., removes sand from Big Sarasota Pass for placement on Lido Key Beach.

When asked about that document, USACE spokesman David Ruderman in the Jacksonville District Office told the News Leader that representatives of Dial Cordy are “not adding an active person to the crew but are expanding a pool of people they can call on to ensure coverage. The monitors work seven days a week, as do the dredge crew, so adding another available body to the pool of monitors gives the contractor some flexibility in the event one or the other needs to take time off for personal issues. In other words,” Ruderman continued, “there’s not another monitor working, there’s another monitor available to work.”

The Cottrell Contracting Corp. dredge Rockbridge works in Big Sarasota Pass on Sept. 12. Some degree of turbidity appears evident in the water. Image courtesy of Michael Holderness

Turbidity is cloudiness in the water that results from sand lost through dredging. If the turbidity exceeds a certain level, the crew on the dredge has to cease sediment removal from Big Pass until the turbidity diminishes to an acceptable level.

Too much turbidity over a period of time can harm creatures in a body of water that need sunlight to survive.

Further, Garis told Lewis that FDEP staff members “participate in a weekly progress meeting to ensure any issues are addressed should they arise.”

On Aug. 11, Lewis informed Garis in a letter that the county had “recently received inquiries from the public” about aspects of the Lido initiative. Lewis sought information about “whether the project is in compliance with the approved plans and conditions at this stage of the construction process.”

Lewis responded to Garis on Aug. 24, thanking him for the update and asking, “Please keep Sarasota County informed if anything changes.”

Cottrell Contracting, which won the USACE bid for the work on Lido, is expected to place 710,000 cubic yards of sand from Big Pass on Lido Key Beach.

These are examples of information found in the turbidity reports filed with FDEP as the Lido project continues. Image courtesy FDEP

In a related matter, the News Leader asked Ruderman, the USACE spokesman, whether tropical storms passing through the Gulf of Mexico — including Sally in recent days — had had any deleterious effect on the renourishment initiative.

Ruderman replied in his Sept. 15 email, “When it comes to storm impacts, there has been some erosion of the beach fill area but it doesn’t appear to be extensive. Waves have caused some small escarpments in filled portions of the beach, but this is fairly normal during a storm swell and wind event. The Corps and the contractor will re-survey the storm damaged and surrounding areas and execute repairs as appropriate. No significant impacts to cost or project schedule are expected at this time. That being said, it’s still storm season and no one knows what may develop.”

Last week, the News Leader asked FDEP representatives about photos of an escarpment that department staff had posted after a Sept. 1 site visit to Lido Beach.

This photo taken during an FDEP site visit to Lido Beach on Sept. 1 shows an escarpment. Image courtesy FDEP

On Sept. 8, Alexandra Kuchta, a spokeswoman for FDEP’s South District Office, responded as follows: “Currently, the Department is assessing the extent of escarpment present on Lido Key Beach to determine if escarpment management (i.e. leveling) is needed. Large swells, as a result of the tropical storm activity in the Gulf of Mexico, left escarpments on the beach.”

She added, “Environmental sensitivity, project location, scope of work, sand source and potential impacts to flora and fauna are all important components that will need be considered prior to taking action. The Department is working closely with the project’s contractor, the Army Corps of Engineers and FWC’s marine turtle program to evaluate next steps.”