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Manatee County leaders seek federal help with Anna Maria Island beach erosion problem after Idalia

Posted on September 27, 2023

As frequent storms – and most recently Hurricane Idalia – impact coastal areas in Florida, county leaders in the Tampa Bay area are asking the federal government for help in restoration projects.

On Anna Maria Island, county officials said there has been an alarming loss of sand all around the island and they have even lost more than 150 feet of sand in some spots. That’s why Manatee County leaders have given the nod for county staff to reach out to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for their expertise to help with the problem.

Sand dunes are usually among the first considerations when it comes to mitigation plans for beach renourishment.

“These dunes were about 4 or 5 feet thick before the storm occurred,” Charlie Hunsicker, director of natural resources for Manatee County, said.

Hunsicker said dunes are able to withstand tropical storms and low-strength hurricanes. They help protect homes, utility infrastructure and roads and buy time for evacuations.

“They keep going down and that fills the entire frame of the beach out into the dunes and back,” said Hunsicker.

Hunsicker said that after Idalia last month, it was clear that several erosion prevention plans are no longer working as designed.

Over time, storm waves have battered away sets of erosion-control groin systems built in the 1950s. More recently, county officials estimate they’ve lost almost 50,000 cubic yards worth of sand in the Coquina Beach area – which amounts to around 4,000 truckloads of sand.

Manatee County Board of Commissioners has now called on the federal government for aid to renourish the coastline along the so-designated Manatee County Shore Protection Project on Anna Maria Island. This is something business leaders welcome.

“When we think about beach renourishment, it’s not just being able to set up your beach chair on the beach and having a nice white beach to play in. We employ nearly 400 people. Each of these businesses has a large employment base as well. We want all of our employees to be able to keep working as do they,” said Chuck Wolfe with Chiles Hospitality and operator of Sandbar Restaurant.

The hope is that Congress approves the U.S. Corps of Engineers restoring up to four miles in the north of the island while FEMA tackles nearly a two-mile stretch southwards up to Longboat Pass.

“We hope that as the beach settles down, maybe we will get some of it back or some height back to it but we’ll see,” said Wolfe.

“They are sacrificial sands and we sacrifice that to the energy of the storm rather than sacrifice our roads, or utilities or the homes behind the beach,” said Hunsicker.

In nearby Sarasota County, officials are working on a comeback after they dealt with a setback in their efforts to renourish the sand at Turtle Beach.

After Hurricane Idalia, the beach lost 45,000 cubic yards of sand, which is equal to more than 13 Olympic-sized swimming pools. County officials said that the loss of sand exacerbated the project that has been underway to restore the beach after it was impacted by Hurricane Hermine, which happened in 2016.


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