State of Emergency declared for Lido Beach erosion

Lido property owners directed to contact the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for sandbag permits

Sarasota City Manager Tom Barwin and Kelly Cramer of FDEP pause to survey conditions as they make their way along Lido Beach on May 30. Photo courtesy City of Sarasota

Late on the afternoon of May 30, Sarasota City Manager Tom Barwin declared a local State of Emergency for Lido Beach because of erosion exacerbated by Subtropical Storm Alberto and continuing storm conditions.

Barwin took the action, a city news release said, “following an extensive walking inspection of the severely eroded beach” with Kelly Cramer, an environmental specialist with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). A city video showing the conditions they found has been posted on YouTube.

By declaring the local State of Emergency, the release explained, the city is seeking to qualify for any regulatory and financial assistance available. Additionally, FDEP will directly assist Lido Beach property owners in obtaining permits to place sandbags and limited quantities of sand on the beach for private property protection purposes, the release added.

“A property owner would be eligible to place up to 300 cubic yards of beach-quality bagged sand on the beach to protect private property,” the release pointed out. Barwin plans to petition state officials to double that amount, the release noted.

“While 300 cubic yards is a start, much more is needed,” said Barwin in the release. “During our walking inspection [on May 30], the sheer force of the wave action was physically moving FDEP-approved sandbags that were recently put there.”

Chapter 13 of the City Municipal Code allows the city manager to declare a State of Emergency with the approval of one city commissioner, the release noted.

The Gulf of Mexico surges against a condominium structure on Lido Key on May 30. Image from a City of Sarasota YouTube video

Mayor Liz Alpert, who represents District 2, concurred with Barwin’s recommendation for the action, calling it “‘necessary,’” the release said.

Section 13.2 of the code says, “Whenever it is determined in the judgment of the city manager, concurred in by any city commissioner, that a state of emergency exists due to an existing or threatened riot, hurricane or other adverse weather conditions, a natural or manmade disaster, or any other occurrence, likely to cause or capable of causing widespread personal injury or damage to property, then the city manager may, in the interest of public safety and welfare, and, when practicable, in coordination with Sarasota County, make emergency orders, effective within the entire city or within such geographical areas as may be designated …”

Section 13.3 notes, “Such emergency orders shall not initially exceed seven (7) days, but may be extended in seven-day increments if necessary.”

However, Barwin’s official notice said, “In order to make all reasonable efforts to protect vulnerable public infrastructure, private property, homes and commerce, this emergency declaration will remain in place through the 2018 hurricane season and through completion of the Emergency Beach Renourishment currently being prepared for construction in the autumn of 2018.”

This is the first page of the declaration of the State of Emergency. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

The city is pursuing two tracks to renourish Lido Beach. The first is a short-term project staff hopes will begin after turtle nesting season concludes at the end of October. The city has been working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) for a number of years on a longer-term initiative. That has been stalled by legal challenges. Nonprofit organizations and residents on Siesta Key have been fighting the proposal to withdraw sand from Big Sarasota Pass for that project. (See the related story in this issue.)

The State of Emergency issued on May 30 applies to the most threatened portions of Lido Beach, the city news release pointed out. “On the southern half of Lido Beach, markers R-37 south to R-44.2 are included. Along the northern portion of Lido Beach, markers R-31 to R-33 are part of the local State of Emergency,” the release added.

On May 28, Subtropical Storm Alberto nears landfall on the Florida Peninsula. Image from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

“It’s getting worse by the hour,” said Barwin in the release. “With this relentless weather system related to Subtropical Storm Alberto, the surf continues to pound and erode the beach. It’s a dire situation. In some parts, the beach is nonexistent, leaving private property, wildlife nesting areas and infrastructure exposed and in jeopardy.”

At 1:53 p.m. on May 30, the National Weather Service report for Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport noted that 0.89 inches of rain had been recorded over the previous six hours. Another 0.02 inches was noted as of the 7:53 p.m. report. The wind was mostly out of the south and southeast that day, the data showed, though the highest gust recorded was 16 mph out of the west at 10:53 a.m. Over the next nine hours, the wind speed ranged from 8 to 14 mph.

Lido Beach property owners interested in obtaining an FDEP permit for sandbags should contact Cramer at FDEP via email, the city news release noted:

“The next step is to continue to collaborate with our residents and partners at the County, State and Federal levels to restore and protect our beautiful, protective shoreline on Florida’s west coast,” said Barwin in the release.