Posted on October 9, 2023
A perfectly orchestrated convoy ballet of 80,000- and 100,000-pound trucks are traversing through the narrow streets of Pass-a-Grille to haul in sand that will reconstruct dunes washed away in the wake of Hurricane Idalia.
Public Works Director Mike Clarke said a county-funded program began Sept. 26 and should last through the first week in October; a similar event will take place on Upham Beach, which also suffered severe sand erosion.
According to Pinellas County Coastal Management, “the project consists of constructing dunes and temporary sand-filled erosion control devices. The active project area will move strategically along the coast, as county teams triage the damage and work on the most critical areas first. Sand is being trucked in from an authorized location, placed on the beach and shaped into dunes. The new dunes will also be planted with vegetation.”
Dune restoration has already started on Treasure Island, where 200 trucks a day hauled in sand each morning and afternoon.
The overall project is estimated to cost $25 million to $30 million and is being funded by Tourist Development Tax dollars, county officials noted. Pinellas County is seeking reimbursement or a cost-share with the state.
Clarke told city commissioners staff devised a carefully-designed plan to get the huge trucks quickly and safely on and off the beach “in one straight shot.”
The sand is coming from two mines. The trucks are huge, with large turning radiuses. “You don’t want those vehicles backing up. You just want them to drive straight in, drop their load, and drive straight out,” Clarke said. “That reduces our safety exposure and a whole lot of other things.”
Other, more beach-compatible vehicles will then spread out the sand.
Plans call for trucks to follow Pass-a-Grille Way, then turn right onto 4th Avenue. Parking is to be restricted on the avenue.
The trucks will enter the beach at 4th Avenue, where a hole will be punched in the beach wall. A huge mat grid system on the beach will prevent them from getting stuck in the sand. They will drop their sand loads, do U-turns and come out through another section of the wall farther south.
The full project stretches from 1st to 7th avenues.
Parking, water rates rise
Commissioners followed up on their suggestion during the budget process and voted to increase the hourly public parking rates for weekdays by 25 cents to $4 per hour, and weekend parking rates by one dollar to $4.75, because of the demand for beach parking.
In addition, the boat trailer parking rate and holiday rate were both increased from $20 per day to $25 per day.
City officials noted the proposed additional parking revenue is expected to generate $800,000 per year.
Commissioners also voted to increase reclaimed water fees to keep up with increases in the county rate of 15% per year over the last year, and planned increases of 15% per year over the next three years.
The proposed increase will see costs rise from $21.24 to $25 for basic service and from $21.24 to $25 for the first equivalent residential unit, and from $18.46 to $25 for each additional ERU for multi-family and commercial and public use property.
The proposed increase will generate approximately $180,000 per year, staff noted.
In another increase, wastewater fees will be increased from $38.82 to $44.65 for the first 3,000 gallons for residential and commercial properties, and from $12.81 to $14.73 for each additional 1,000 gallons for residential and commercial properties, an overall 15% increase.
This increase will result in an additional $1,132,500 in revenue per year, according to a staff report.