A $21.5 million beach restoration project on south Siesta Key finally began Thursday, three months after Sarasota County officials awarded the contract and two months before the work is slated to end.
New Jersey-based Weeks Marine will start dredging some 690,000 cubic yards of sand from an offshore site about nine miles away and load it onto two barges, Sarasota County Project Manager Paul Semenec said.
The company will then pump that sand from the barges, through an underwater pipe, and onto the shoreline. It will also add about 1.1 acres of dune vegetation, to protect more than two miles of fragile beaches from the steady threat of erosion.
The project stretches from the Sanderling Beach Club south to Palmer Point Park.
All work must cease before May 1, when sea turtles begin their nesting season under the watchful eye of Mote Marine Laboratory, which dispatches scientists and volunteers to monitor turtle activity throughout the season.
“We are getting down to the wire here,” Semenec said of the deadline.
Despite the late start, Weeks Marine estimated the project will take just 40 days and expects to work around the clock to finish by April 30.
Portions of the beach will be closed as the project proceeds. It will start at the halfway point, at Turtle Beach, and move south before going back to the middle and moving north.
Environmentalists have begun monitoring the beach for signs of shorebird nests to protect them from project activity.
Property owners in the affected area will help pay for the project through the creation of a special taxing district. The tax assessment will start in 2017 and is expected to generate roughly $3.5 million by the time it ends in 2023.
Other funds will come from the Tourist Development Capital Improvement Program, along with a grant from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
This is the second time in less than a decade that the county has taxed property owners and renourished the south Siesta Key shoreline. The first time, in 2007, seeded the beach with 6.5 acres of dune vegetation and added nearly 1 million cubic yards of sand for $11.4 million.
The work was expected to protect the beach for 10 years, but the shoreline has eroded at a rate of about 3.7 feet per year, with some areas losing as much as 14 to 18 feet annually, prompting the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to deem it “critically eroded,” in a June beach report.
When the project is finished, the new water line will sit 150 feet farther out into the water, Semenec said, adding that “it’s going to look very different.”
Source: Beach Restoration Begins on Siesta Key - Florida Water Daily