Sarasota County ends up spending only about $245,000 more for Manasota Key Beach Renourishment Project after obtaining easements so pipeline could be placed across property not included in the initiative

County Commission had authorized County Administrator to sign ‘change order’ for nearly $1.2 million more, if needed

This April 13 photo shows the new sand on Manasota Key Beach at the access to Blind Pass Beach Park. The pipeline used to bring the sand ashore is seen at the water’s edge. Image courtesy of Rachel Herman, Environmental Permitting Division

Thanks to “the hard work [of the staff members of the Sarasota County] Environmental Protection Division, Property Management Division, Office of the County Attorney, and the neighbors who signed the easements,” the county had to spend only about $245,000 more for its Manasota Key Beach Renourishment Project, instead of close to $1.2 million extra, County Administrator Jonathan Lewis has reported.

During a Feb. 25 presentation to the County Commission, Rachel Herman, manager of the county’s Environmental Protection Division, explained that unless residents of the barrier island who had opted out of the project agreed to provide temporary easements, the county would have to incur a higher overall expense. The reason? The contractor’s “having to float” the pipeline through which sand would be dispersed onto the beach.

Last year, 23 property owners in the middle of the project area — dubbed “the gap” — informed county representatives that they would not agree to participate in the renourishment effort because they had plenty of sand in front of their homes.

Thus, Herman has pointed out, sand would be placed on the beach on the opposite sides of that gap — from one lot north of 6310 Manasota Key Road to 6010 Manasota Key Road; and then from 6840 Manasota Key Road to 6630 Manasota Key Road.

However, during a Feb. 25 discussion about how to divvy up part of the overall project cost among Manasota Key property owners in Sarasota County, Herman noted that staff had been able to obtain half the necessary easements from gap property owners, so the pipeline could be placed on their portions of the beach.

A graphic shows the revised project limits for the Sarasota County beach renourishment project on Manasota Key, with the ‘gap’ properties in the center. Image courtesy Sarasota County

On Feb. 25, Herman also pointed out that the cost of construction and five years of subsequent monitoring required by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection would be $10,025,357.

(In his March 26 email to the commissioners, County Administrator Lewis noted that the total amount of the contract ended up at $7,687,469. Contingency funds were factored into the figure Herman previously gave the board.)

The change order

On March 10, in the aftermath of the Feb. 25 discussion, Commissioner Alan Maio made a motion, seconded by Commissioner Nancy Detert, to authorize Lewis to increase the funding for the Manasota Key Beach Renourishment Project up to $1,154,951. That would take care of a “change order” to pay the contractor to keep the pipeline offshore as needed to avoid parcels where the temporary easements had not been provided. The motion passed, 4-0, with Commissioner Charles Hines absent.

A staff memo contained in the March 10 agenda packet explained that the best-case scenario would be the necessity of spending another $245,384, if staff were able to obtain the temporary “gap” easements.

“The preferred option,” the memo said, would be placing the pipeline on the dry beach. “This approach would be faster, involve less uncertainty due to possible weather delays, and would be a considerable cost-savings in comparison to the use of submerged pipe.”

Michael Poff addresses the board members on Feb. 28, 2019 in Venice. File image

A Feb. 10 letter from the contractor, Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co. LLC, to the consultant — Michael Poff of Coastal Engineering Consultants in Naples — explained that company employees “have determined it is unsafe to place pipeline below the Mean High Water Line (MHWL), since the pipeline would be intermittently submerged and would not be visible at all times. Additionally, it would not be possible to provide safe access across the pipe.”

The company pegged the “dry beach” option at $245,384, including a 20% contingency expense of $40,897.38.

That letter also was included in the March 10 agenda packet.

In response to County Administrator Lewis’ March 26 email about the lower change order expense, Commissioner Maio wrote, “Wonderful, positive news that ends a pretty rough, dry spell.” He was referring to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“Please thank and commend all our staff that touched this!” Maio added.

‘Looking good’

Sarasota County collaborated with the Charlotte County Commission on the Manasota Key Beach initiative, as a means of paring costs. The project’s regional impact enabled it to win state grant support, Poff — the consultant whom the Charlotte County Commission hired — explained to both boards. Additionally, the counties shared general expenses for the contractor.

In reports to the commissioners, Environmental Permitting Manger Herman said she expected the renourishment of both the Sarasota County and Charlotte County sides of Manasota Key Beach to be completed before sea turtle nesting season officially begins on May 1.

This week, in response to a Sarasota News Leader question about the status of the work, Herman told Media Relations Officer Drew Winchester on April 14 that the contractor should be wrapping up the Sarasota County part of the project “in the next 3-4 days, and that it’s ‘looking good.’”

Herman provided a number of photos to the News Leader, as she had earlier for the County Commission, to illustrate her assessment of the project results.

This photo of the Manasota Key Beach project shows a ramp across the pipeline running along the ‘gap’ parcels. Image courtesy of Rachel Herman, Environmental Permitting Division
This photo shows the discharge of slurry at the northern end of the work zone. Image courtesy of Rachel Herman, Environmental Permitting Division
This photo was taken at 6310 Manasota Key Road, looking north. Image courtesy of Rachel Herman, Environmental Permitting Division