Posted July 12, 2020
Workers are kicking off a months-long beach renourishment project to restore the shore along most of Anna Maria Island.
Construction crews will spend the next four months pumping sand from offshore to restore the beach sand that washed away during major storms like Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Hermine.
Beach renourishment projects play a critical role in the maintenance of Florida’s beaches, according to David Ruderman, corporate communications office public affairs specialist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is in charge of the project.
“It is building beach resiliency so that the entire length of the beach will be better protected against future storm damage,” Ruderman explained. “It’s an investment in protecting the natural landscape, but, of course, also the economic base of the community, which is based on tourism and folks coming to visit.”
Funding for the $17.3 million project is shared by the federal, state and local governments. Construction will stretch 5.5 miles, from the northern end of Holmes Beach down to the southern end of Coquina Beach, near Longboat Pass.
In a statement released by Manatee County government, Charlie Hunsicker, the county’s director of Parks and Natural Resources, compared beach renourishment projects to the maintenance of a busy road.
“This beach nourishment management program is very much like a roadway or other such infrastructure, as in once it is built, it must be maintained,” Hunsicker said. “The work you see is maintenance that will help ensure continued presence of a sandy beach and storm protection for the upland.”
Constructions crews began the renourishment process Wednesday night, near 78th Street North in the city of Holmes Beach. According to Ruderman, workers will operate 24 hours a day, placing between 300 to 500 feet of sand a day. The project should wrap up in early November, but the combination of the coronavirus pandemic and hurricane season could cause delays.
“These folks, like the rest of us, are just as susceptible to coronavirus infection as anybody. There’s some unforeseen things, but you plan and then you execute and, occasionally, you have to adjust along the way,” Ruderman noted, referring to timeline changes that could be caused by mechanical breakdowns, inclement weather and health issues among crew members.
Overall, the crew plans to renovate the shore by pumping and placing more than 1 million cubic yards of sand from a federally permitted borrow pit near Passage Key, which is about 2,000 feet from the north end of Anna Maria Island.
To protect visitors, parts of the beach will be closed off as construction progresses down the island. To accommodate beachgoers, a continuous walkway will remain open on the landward side of the beach.
Beach renourishment is underway on Anna Maria Island, slated to take about 4 months. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is in charge of the project which will pump sand along the shore, restoring eroded sand. Tiffany Tompkins firstname.lastname@example.org
Anna Maria Island saw its first beach renourishment project in 1992, which restored 2.3 million cubic yards of sand on the coast. Since then, more than five more projects have been completed, bringing another 3.5 million cubic yards of eroded sand back to island beaches.
While beach renourishment projects ensure that island tourists have a place to lounge in the sun, they’re equally crucial when it comes to providing an environment for marine life. Special precautions are taken to protect wildlife during construction, too.
“The contractor and the county are monitoring for sea turtle nesting in particular, and when they find them, they relocate them. They search as they go down the shoreline because it’s an iconic and important member of the ecosystem,” Ruderman said. “That’s spelled right into the contract — to take care of sea turtle nests and minimize lighting to the extent that’s possible at night.”
Because construction crews are operating 24/7, heavy machinery is only expected to remain in the same place for a few days before progressing down the beach, which could limit the direct impact on tourism and short-term rentals.
“We’re all connected through this. The folks who come from out of state or from around the world will have this beautiful beach to enjoy for years and years to come,” said Ruderman.
For more information on the project, visit www.MyManatee.org/BeachProject.