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South Siesta beach repair may slow traffic to a turtle’s pace

Earth-moving equipment is on site at Turtle Beach as more than 92,000 cubic yards of sand will be delivered to make repairs to the storm-damaged beach.

Posted on May 3, 2023

Beginning this week through the end of June, residents and visitors to South Siesta Key will notice 100 to 120 dump truck trips per day bringing sand from inland to repair Turtle Beach In 2016, Hurricane Hermine narrowed and damaged the beach.

That damage occurred only three months after the most recent beach renourishment on that part of Siesta Key in May 2016. Prior to that, the beach there was renourished in 2006.

The contractor for the repair project plans to haul beach-compatible sand from Lake Wales in Polk County, using 60 to 70 dump trucks, most of them making two trips per day, traversing through the intersection of Stickney Point Road and Midnight Pass. That will add traffic to an already congested area.

Still, the project must be done, and it must be done now, according to Sarasota County Environmental Protection Division Manager Rachel Herman. Funding was set aside for the beach repair by FEMA and the Florida Department of Emergency Management. Between those agencies, the county is eligible for 87.5% of the project cost.

The catch is that deal expires on June 30.

Trucks loaded with beach-compatible sand from Lake Wales began arriving at Turtle Beach on Wednesday.

“We initially thought that what we would do is apply the funding that FEMA was going to give us for the damage to the next full renourishment, which is planned for 2026,” Herman said. “But around November of 2019, FEMA introduced the concept of an interim repair project, using sand transported via dump trucks from an upland sand source, and so at that point we transitioned to doing the repair project.”

The current cost of the project is not to exceed $8.2 million, with a deadline for substantial completion by the end of June in order to qualify for the funding.

With upwards of 120 dump truck trips per day, times two for arriving and departing, traffic disruptions will occur through the duration of the project. Once completed, though, the work will widen the beach in the project area by some 25 to 35 feet.

“We appreciate everybody’s patience as we’re doing the work and understanding that it’s just for a short duration, but it will provide some much-needed protection for this storm season coming up,” Herman said. “That is the benefit of doing it now as compared to waiting until next fall.”

Turtle Beach will remain open throughout the project duration outside the work area, but other beaches may be more crowded as beachgoers look elsewhere for their day in the sun.

“Any time there’s anything happening at any of the beaches, whether it be red tide at one beach and not another, or if we’re working on the access point at Siesta Beach or another beach, you’ll see that shift,” said Media Relations Officer Brianne Lorenz. “Folks are clever here. They know their favorite beaches. If there’s a will, there’s a way. They’ll find a way to get to the beach they want to get to.”

Repair vs. renourishment

A beach repair requires a lower volume of sand that can be brought onto the site less expensively than bringing offshore dredging equipment.

The Turtle Beach repair will take some 92,500 cubic yards of sand compared to the most recent South Siesta Key beach renourishment in 2016, in which 700,000 cubic yards of sand was placed.

“You really have to have a lot of volume to justify the need to bring one of those ocean-going dredges to your project mobilization,” said Sarasota County Environmental Protection Division Manager Rachel Herman. “The cost for just bringing the dredge to the area is in excess of several million dollars. You really want to make sure that you’re going to be using and placing enough samd on the project to make it worth bringing them to the area.”



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