Plenty of public engagement planned prior to initiative, city leaders say
In September 2013, when U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) representatives unveiled their plans for the Lido Key Hurricane and Storm Damage Reduction Project, they explained that subsequent initiatives likely would be necessary every five years after the first undertaking was completed.
City leaders celebrated the completion of the initial project this spring, with 683,084 cubic yards of sand having been removed from Big Sarasota Pass for placement on the beach.
Altogether, USACE spokesman David Ruderman, who works out of the Jacksonville District Office, told The Sarasota News Leader that about 800,000 cubic yards of sand was dredged from the pass, which lies between Lido and Siesta keys.
It was the first time Big Pass ever had been dredged.
Yet, before the next renourishment initiative takes place, the City of Sarasota plans a dune construction project along approximately 1.5 miles of Lido Beach.
Jan Thornburg, the city’s senior communications manager, explained to the News Leader in a Sept. 23 email that the project will take place on the northern portion of the 2.2-mile stretch of Lido Key shoreline. “This is a nourishment project initiated by the City and separate from the long-term agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,” she added. “The primary goal of the project is to buffer potential flooding impacts to Benjamin Franklin Drive and upland private property,” Thornburg pointed out.
Benjamin Franklin Drive has been prone to flooding during major storm events, as evidenced by Sarasota Police Department photos taken following periods of heavy rain from passing tropical storms.
In unanimously approving Consent Agenda No. 1 on their Sept. 20 agenda, the city commissioners accepted a $1,119,750 grant from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) that will pay for the design and construction of the dunes, plus monitoring after the work has been completed.
The city’s match for the grant is the same amount it is accepting from FDEP, a staff memo noted. The funds will come out of the county’s Tourist Development Tax revenue, a city document shows. A portion of that revenue is allocated to the city each year for beach renourishment efforts.
The federal government will cover $1,108,714 of the total project expense of $3,348,214, the staff memo added.
FDEP’s Beach Management Funding Assistance Program report released in January regarding grants for the 2022 fiscal year had estimated a total project expense of $3,379,000, with $1,139,500 coming from the federal government.
The state grant amount and city match were the same figures provided to the City Commission this week.
The agreement will be in effect through Dec. 31, 2025, Thornburg noted.
Further details of the grant program and plans
That FDEP document says in its introduction, “Florida is dependent on its 825 miles of sandy beaches fronting the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and Straits of Florida for storm protection. Healthy beaches protect public infrastructure and private upland development, provide critical habitat for many endangered and threatened species, and secure recreational and economic interest along the state’s sandy shoreline.”
Additionally, it points out that, in 2015, the state’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research reported that the “state’s investment in the Beach Management Program generated a positive return on investment of 5.4,” which that office estimated on the basis of “tax revenues resulting from visitor spending … A return of greater than 1 means that the tax revenue generated by tourists to the state of Florida more than covers the state’s expenditure on beaches …”
The city staff memo provided to the commissioners in advance of the Sept. 20 meeting explained that FDEP “has developed a multi-year repair and maintenance strategy to implement the state’s responsibility for a comprehensive, long-range, statewide program of beach erosion control, including beach restoration, nourishment and storm protection.”
The recent USACE project encompassed approximately 1.6 miles of shoreline, FDEP documents have shown. The Grant Work Plan attached to the new FDEP agreement points out that the entire authorized project area encompasses 2.2 miles “along the Gulf of Mexico,” referencing the length of Lido Beach, as Thornburg pointed out in her email to the News Leader.
The Grant Work Plan in the FDEP agreement that the City Commission approved this week also notes that restoration of the northern 1.2 miles of the 2.2 miles was completed in 1998. The remainder of the beach was restored in 2000-2001, the document adds.
“The first nourishment was conducted in 2003,” the Grant Work Plan continues. “Hurricane recovery nourishments were completed in 2009, 2015, and 2019,” it says.
The portion of that document regarding the dune construction initiative references “the placement of fill material and/or the construction of erosion control structures within the Project area. … Eligible costs may include mobilization [of equipment], demobilization, construction observation or inspection services, physical and environmental surveys, beach fill [and] dune stabilization measures and native beach-dune vegetation.”
The city will be responsible for acquiring “professional services for the engineering and design of the Project such as coastal engineering analyses, preparation of plans and specifications, physical and environmental surveys, cultural resource surveys, design-level geotechnical services, sediment studies, inlet studies, environmental analyses” and obtaining the necessary environmental permits and any other authorizations, the agreement adds.
The document calls for that work to take place in the 2023 fiscal year.
In her Sept. 23 email to the News Leader, Thornburg also noted, “The City of Sarasota will coordinate with the general public and residents regarding the proposed dune once concepts of design plans for the project are available. Substantial public outreach is anticipated to ensure residents are aware of the effort and will have the opportunity for input into the dune design and location.”