With City Commission having approved updated agreement with Army Corps of Engineers, federal agency says it is on target for advertising new Lido Renourishment Project bid package in December

Revised version of document notes necessity of change in borrow areas

This engineering drawing issued by the USACE in a July 11 amendment to its original bid package shows the area in front of the Lido Pavilion and Pool from which a contractor would be allowed to remove sand on a temporary basis to cover an exposed groin on the southern end of the beach. The USACE offered that option to enable the contractor to move equipment safely over the groin, if the contractor were unable to use Ted Sperling Park as a staging area. Image courtesy U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

With no comment, the Sarasota City Commission this week unanimously approved a revised partnership agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) for the planned Lido Key Hurricane and Storm Damage Reduction Project.

Commissioner Willie Shaw made the motion, and Vice Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch seconded it during the commission’s regular meeting on Oct. 21. The agreement was part of the board’s Consent Agenda No. 1.

A city staff memo provided to the commission in advance of the meeting explained that the USACE “completed an engineering documentation report in June of 2019 summarizing the changes to the project” that occurred after Congress originally authorized the Lido initiative in 2004. The memo pointed out that the USACE initially had proposed dredging three sand borrow areas “located between 7.2 and 9.5 nautical miles offshore,” which were evaluated as part of a sand study completed in 2000.

Then, in 2001, the State of Florida changed its “sand rule” guideline, the memo added, which rendered those offshore borrow areas unsuitable. As a result, the USACE had to find new sand sources with sufficient quantity and suitable quality “that would be economically feasible … for the project.”

This graphic in the May bid package shows details where vibracore samples were taken from the borrow areas, to provide details for dredging purposes. Image courtesy U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The memo further noted, “In 2010 Sarasota County completed [its] inlet management plan [which] also recognized the sand in the Big [Sarasota] Pass shoal … could be used as a borrow site if done with proper care and monitoring.” In 1980, the memo said, the USACE also had identified Big Pass — along with New Pass — as having sediment that would meet the state guidelines for the Lido renourishment project.

“Building from these earlier documents,” the city staff memo continued, the USACE “held numerous meetings, refined the borrow areas based on the additional modeling and research and in July 2018 completed an Environmental Assessment.”

Only one paragraph was changed in the updated partnership agreement, the staff materials noted. That paragraph covers the issues about the borrow areas. It also points out that the renourished beach would be 80 feet wide.

Further, the staff memo noted that the previous, August 2018 partnership agreement between the city and the USACE included an estimated cost of $19,577,231 for the initial project on Lido, with the USACE covering 65% of that and the city handling the remainder. (The city will use beach renourishment money allocated to it through a formula applied to Sarasota County Tourist Development Tax — or, “bed tax” — revenue. The city also has a commitment of funding from the state.)

Section 7.0 of the revised agreement puts the construction estimate for the USACE at $15 million with the notation that that is the 2019 fiscal year “price level.”

That section also explains that the USACE anticipates the project to take 275 calendar days from the date the USACE gives a contractor the official notice to begin work. That would assume 75 days of preparation before the actual dredging of Big Pass began, that section indicates.

In early August, the USACE cancelled the solicitation it began advertising in May, seeking a contractor for the Lido project. It called the two responses it received on July 30 “unreasonably high.”

This graphic in the 2018 USACE Environmental Assessment for the Lido project shows the design with two groins. Image courtesy USACE

In the document it published on July 30, the USACE showed that its estimate of the expense of the project was $14,149,000. The lower bid was $22,135,100. The higher one was $27,195,725.

In response to a Sarasota News Leader request for an update on the plans for advertisement of a new solicitation package, Trisston Brown, chief of the USACE’s Florida Projects Section in Jacksonville, wrote in an Oct. 23 email that the City Commission’s approval of the updated agreement “was a meaningful step towards overall project success.”

Brown added, “The revised solicitation package for the Lido project is now scheduled to move forward as follows”:

  • December — Advertise for bids.
  • January 2020 — Receive proposals.
  • February 2020 — Award contract.

The staff memo for the Oct. 21 City Commission meeting also explained that the USACE plans for periodic renourishments, following the initial construction. The original USACE project manager — and subsequent materials from the federal agency — indicate that more sand would need to be placed on Lido Beach approximately every five years. The proposal also calls for construction of two groins on South Lido to try to keep sand in place between those initiatives.

Still hoping for county help

During the City Commission’s evening session on Oct. 21, Commissioner Shelli Freeland Eddie brought up the amended agreement with the USACE in response to comments from County Commission Chair Charles Hines,

As chair of the County Commission, Hines was present to provide the city board an update on a number of county issues.

Hines had taken the opportunity to thank Freeland Eddie for appearing before the County Commission on Oct. 8 to present a formal request from the City Commission for county approval for the USACE to let its contractor use part of the county’s Ted Sperling Park on South Lido as a staging area for the sand placement and groin construction.

An aerial view of Lido Beach in City Manager Tom Barwin’s March 8 newsletter shows progress as of that date of an emergency renourishment project. Sperling Park is at the southern end of Lido Key. That undertaking concluded in April. Photo courtesy City of Sarasota

“I think the County Commission has the information now that it needs to go forward with that,” Hines told the city commissioners on Oct. 21. “It was important to hear from you all, the policymakers, that you felt that this was necessary.”

Previously, as County Administrator Jonathan Lewis pointed out on Oct. 8, all the discussions and other exchanges about the proposed staging at the park had taken place between city and county staff members.

The commission did receive a memo on Oct. 18, Hines told the city commissioners, providing answers the county board had sought from county staff. “I’ll try to get [the city request] on the meeting schedule as soon as possible,” he said.

The County Commission’s next regular meeting will be on Nov. 5 at the R.L. Anderson Administration Center in Venice.

Freeland Eddie told Hines about the commission’s approval that afternoon of the amendment to the city’s partnership agreement with the USACE.

“Time is of the essence,” she added. “I look forward to you ensuring that this item is placed on the next available agenda,” she continued. “We don’t want to have to carry over the cost to the taxpayers in terms of having to rent a place to store the equipment [for the Lido Beach renourishment initiative].”