Passage of tropical storms and hurricanes through Gulf of Mexico and equipment problems have led to periodic halts of dredging in Big Pass
Rough weather produced by hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico has had some impact on the renourishment of Lido Key Beach, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) spokesman told The Sarasota News Leader this week.
However, David Ruderman, who is based at the USACE’s Jacksonville District Office, reported in an Oct. 7 email that, most recently, the crew working for the contractor — Cottrell Contracting Corp. of Chesapeake, Va. — has been adding a little more than 7,000 cubic yards of sand per day to the Lido shoreline, “advancing about 50 feet per day up the beach.”
Ruderman added, “They expect to reach the Rock jetty in the week ahead.”
The Cottrell workers had to halt operations because of Hurricane Sally’s recent passage through the Gulf, Ruderman reported. They resumed dredging Big Sarasota Pass on Sept. 27, he noted.
Following a progress meeting conducted early in the afternoon of Oct. 7, Ruderman reported to the News Leader that approximately 460,000 cubic yards of sand has been placed on the beach. “There was some deposit loss due to Hurricane Sally recently but it does not appear to be of major proportion,” Ruderman pointed out. (Hurricane Sally, which struck near the Florida-Alabama line on Sept. 16, formed on Sept. 11.)
“The [dredging] forecast is not favorable until Tuesday of next week,” Ruderman continued in his email, “but the crew is working away while keeping an eye out for wind and waves as Hurricane Delta moves through the Gulf. They will adjust operations accordingly pending developments.”
Jan Thornburg, senior communications manager with the City of Sarasota, told the News Leader on Oct. 7 that 529,500 cubic yards of sand had been removed from Big Pass.
Both Thornburg and Ruderman noted that, as Thornburg put it in her email, “An upcoming survey will tell us how much is on the beach.”
The USACE solicitation for the Lido Key Hurricane and Storm Damage Reduction Project called for a total of 710,000 cubic yards of new sand to be added to the beach.
“The contractor is making good progress and the sand placement is expected to wrap up in mid-November,” Thornburg added.
Ruderman confirmed that timeline: “mid-November, with the usual caveats for unforeseeable weather, mechanical or personnel issues,” he wrote.
Before the Cottrell Contracting dredge Rockbridge began work on July 18, city staff had anticipated the renourishment initiative would end around Oct. 2. That estimate, though, preceded the arrival of the dredge.
Residents on both Lido and Siesta keys began tracking the Rockbridge’s progress in June. The News Leader joined in that initiative on June 17, locating the dredge first at the Morehead City Port on North Carolina’s coast.
In his Oct. 7 email, Ruderman also confirmed of the Cottrell workers, “They are dredging material from the designated borrow area in Big Sarasota Pass, but this will not affect the federal navigation channel, and will not impact the popular sandbar …”
On Sept. 28, Renee ODell, a representative of Longboat Private Services, a property management company, emailed the Sarasota city commissioners, asking about the status of the dredging of Big Pass.
She noted that when she anchored in the pass on the evening of Sept. 25 to watch the sunset, she did not see the sandbar. ODell added that the dredge was closer to Lido Beach than Siesta Key, so she wanted to inquire whether a problem had arisen.
ODell also about water quality issues.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) continues to provide copies of reports from observers on the Rockbridge who have been designated to monitor turbidity levels in the water. Turbidity refers to cloudiness. If the water remains too murky over a period of time, living organisms below the surface that rely on sunlight to survive can suffer harmful effects, marine biologists have explained.
The most recent turbidity monitoring reports the News Leader found on the FDEP webpages — which covered the period from Sept. 25 through Oct. 1 — offered no indications of any exceedance levels.
The Sept. 25 report did say the dredge was not working that day because of mechanical issues, but the observer expected it to be back in operation the following day. Yet, the Sept. 26 report noted that repairs still were ongoing when the turbidity team arrived in the project area.
Finally, dredging resumed on Sept. 27, documents show, which is also the date Ruderman had noted in his Oct. 7 email.
The first report for Sept. 27, completed about 7 a.m., said no water samples were taken because the crew was repositioning the dredge and reattaching the pipeline that is used to deliver sand to Lido Key Beach. Water sampling finally began about 11 a.m., according to the next report for Sept. 27.
Then, on Sept. 28, a report filed at 11 a.m. said the dredging was halted once more so the crew could clear debris from the cutterhead, which is the equipment used to bore into the sand in the waterway.
The 11 a.m. report on Sept. 30 cited 3- to 5-foot breakers in the pass, preventing access to the western side of the dredge, and 2- to 4-foot breakers on the shoal, “making sample collection unsafe.” Those unsafe conditions persisted into the afternoon, the 3 p.m. report said.
Water sampling did resume on Oct. 1.