Some shoreline erosion observed in unincorporated areas of county — including Beach Access 1 on Siesta Key — but a few areas gained sand
Although residential and commercial structures appeared to have fared well countywide, in spite of their battering by Tropical Storm Eta’s 40-mph to 50-mph gusts on Nov. 11 — and 6 or more inches of rain — certain areas of the shoreline did sustain damage, Sarasota County’s Emergency Services Department staff has reported.
In the city of Sarasota, the “[m]ost significant sand loss” on Lido Key, where a renourishment initiative began in mid-July, was at the southern end of the project area, David Ruderman, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), told The Sarasota News Leader on Nov. 16. He added that “the Corps is negotiating a contract modification with Cottrell to address that and may reach an agreement later this week.”
In the spring, Cottrell Contracting Corp. of Chesapeake, Va., won the USACE bid to handle the Lido Key Hurricane and Storm Damage Reduction Project.
The USACE and the City of Sarasota received a permit from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) in June 2018 to undertake that initiative. The sand is coming from Big Sarasota Pass, which flows between Lido and Siesta keys.
The USACE had specified in its December 2019 solicitation for the project that 710,000 cubic yards of sand would be dredged from Big Pass to widen Lido Beach.
Even with the sand loss from Eta, Ruderman noted in his Nov. 16 email, the renourishment portion of the project is expected to be completed by Nov. 23. The construction of two groins on south Lido, to try to hold the sand in place between subsequent renourishment initiatives, is set to get underway in December, he added. “[The] initial stage [of that work] will be offshore,” Ruderman wrote. “They won’t actually be working on the beach till sometime in January .”
That part of the project, he told the News Leader earlier, is expected to be completed in April 2021, before sea turtle nesting season begins again officially on May 1.
In an email to the Sarasota city commissioners sent on the evening of Nov. 11, as the tropical storm continued to produce downpours and wind gusts, City Manager Tom Barwin noted, “[E]arlier today for the first time in many years the Gulf of Mexico has breached the Lido Shoreline at the Suntide Island Beach Club and perhaps one or two nearby low lying areas.”
The Suntide complex, he pointed out, is the third one south of the Lido Pool and the second south of the Lido Beach Resort.
“Gulf Waters proceeded to inundate the complex ground floor rooms and lobby with Gulf waters running east through a driveway onto Ben Franklin Drive,” Barwin added of the Suntide situation.
Officers of the Sarasota Police Department were on the scene, monitoring the flooding in the area, Barwin wrote.
In regard to the shoreline in the unincorporated areas of the county, Sarasota County Recovery Section Chief Scott Montgomery reported on Nov. 18, “Sarasota County’s beaches fared relatively well following Tropical Storm Eta. The recently renourished project area on Manasota Key appeared to perform well [though] we are awaiting further input from project managers.”
The Manasota Key initiative was completed in April.
“[E]rosion was also observed along the beach fronting Big Pass at Beach Access No. 1 (North Shell Road), continuing an erosion trend observed over the past few years,” Montgomery pointed out.
“Isolated erosion impacts at several areas known to be affected during past tropical storm events was observed,” he continued. “Damage to several dune walkover structures, fences, privacy walls, cabanas and further undermining of a few ‘at risk’ gulf-front homes was observed on Manasota Key and Casey Key. Other than known areas and properties of concern,” he added, “there was no widespread significant beach erosion or widespread significant storm surge impacts.”
In fact, Montgomery noted, some areas on Manasota Key and Casey Key experienced accretion of sand, gaining 2 or more feet.
Additionally, some county buildings did experience leaks in their roofs, Montgomery reported on Nov. 13, but no other damage was found.
In concluding his email to the city commissioners on Nov. 11, City Manager Barwin wrote of Eta, “It has been a weird storm, in an unusual year. Hoping it’s the last of the season.”