Posted on June 22, 2022
MADEIRA BEACH — A multi-year effort to save John’s Pass from silting in with beach sand is moving forward, now that the state included more than $1.5 million in next year’s budget to address the issue.
“We have a large sand problem that has been festering inside John’s Pass for nearly my entire lifetime,” Capt. Dylan Hubbard, owner of Hubbard’s Marina, reported on his Save John’s Pass webpage. “This issue is now coming to a head as it continues to grow and worsen. That issue is sand encroaching into John’s Pass forming a large beach along the northwest side of the pass.”
Madeira Beach City Manager Robin Gomez told Tampa Bay Newspapers “the urgency is to continue to enhance public safety and business viability — tourism. The sand accumulation has created varying and dangerous currents just to the south and to the west of the John’s Pass Park and parking lot, as well as a reduction in the navigable areas on the north side of the pass impacting adjacent businesses.”
The worst parts are to the west of the pass, near the jetty wall, and on the north side of the pass. Boats have to cautiously navigate to avoid the sand accumulation. “Adjacent businesses are constantly battling to avoid and or move sand to allow their boats to continue to operate,” Gomez said.
“Tourism and the safety of our residents and all visitors are exceedingly important to the city of Madeira Beach’s economy and very high quality of life. The dredging will assist both, to ensure Madeira Beach remains a wonderful city to live, learn, work, and play,” the city manager added.
Gomez said the city will be working with various partners and collaborators including Pinellas County, the state, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in a variety of aspects, including planning, surveying, permitting, request for bids and proposals, the work itself, and follow-up.
Madeira Beach Mayor John Hendricks said the Army Corps will not have to get heavily involved, because the project will only dredge silted sand from the beach area and not the channel. The Army Corps has jurisdiction over the John’s Pass boating channel.
The mayor noted silting in of the John’s Pass marina and the beach area has gotten so bad that Hubbard has contemplated moving his fleet. The project has changed those plans.
Exactly how much sand will be dredged his yet to be determined, but the city manager advised the goal is to start and end the project quickly. The goal will be to start by the end of this calendar year, and to finish before the start of next year’s busy tourism season, Gomez said. The channel will not have to be closed off during dredging.
Hendricks noted that state Rep. Linda Chaney, a Republican from St. Pete Beach, worked to get the Legislature to provide funding for the project. “Thank you Gov. DeSantis for approving this project that I have been working hard to get for the past two years,” she said on her Facebook page. “This is so important to our community, I’m glad I was able to make it happen.”
DeSantis has line-item veto power on state budget items, and the John’s Pass project survived a slew of last-minute vetoes.
Hubbard and Hendricks both feel that silting in of the channel was exacerbated by 2006 bridge construction, when FDOT reportedly started to build huge platforms of “rip rap” material. But Mother Nature is largely in charge of the evolution of barrier islands, sending the natural tidal flow of sand from north to south into the pass.
Another jetty would help alleviate silting in of the pass, but the city has been told that project is just too expensive, so it’s “one step at a time,” Hendricks said.
City officials and those familiar with tidal currents in John’s Pass agree that there is a danger with people walking out onto the silted sand, especially at low tide, because it suddenly drops off into the boating channel, which is a deep, rapidly moving body of water. Several people have died over the years thinking it’s safe, even with warning signs against swimming.
“I would like to see it done ASAP, before another death or kid has to be saved,” said Hubbard. “I would like to see it start in late October/early November once the snook spawn is completed, tarpon are done on the beaches and the manatees have migrated.”
He said studies have suggested 23,000 to 25,000 cubic yards of silt needs to be dredged, “and the city wants to renew dunes ruined by Tropical Storm Eta with the sand.”