Town seeks federal funding after Tropical Storm Debby
Tropical Storm Debby, by preliminary estimates, caused 150,000 cubic yards of sand loss on Longboat’s beaches. This week, representatives from the Florida Department of Emergency Management, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and town staff inspected Longboat Key beaches to obtain the preliminary total of sand loss.
But that is by no means the final estimate, says Town Manager David Bullock.
“There’s a lot more than 150,000 cubic yards of dry sand washed off the beaches. And you can capitalize ‘a lot,’” said Bullock. “Assuming we get the appropriate declaration, we’ll do another survey which will give us a more precise answer.”
The amount of sand loss at the highly erosive north end beach between North Shore Road Beach Access and Greer Island comes at a time when the beach there has already lost 50 percent of the sand from the interim renourishment performed approximately one year ago. According to Bullock, the town placed $4 million in sand, or 139,000 cubic yards, on the north end, and a recent survey indicated 50 percent washed away; and this was before Tropical Storm Debby.
“You can pretty much assume after Debby, the other 50 percent is gone,” said Bullock.
In the not so distant past, the North Shore Road Beach Access was closed for over a year due to the dangerous conditions associated with the loss of sand, and was reopened about a year ago after the $4 million interim renourishment. Longbeach Condominiums and 360 North Condominiums have repeatedly been dealing with sand loss and faced with the potential for structural damage due to the buildings’ close proximity to the water when the beach erodes away.
Bullock said Gov. Rick Scott has requested a declaration for individual assistance for Sarasota and Manatee Counties, and that once the declaration is made, Longboat Key is eligible for the federal assistance funding. President Barack Obama has already signed a Federal Disaster Declaration for the State of Florida after Tropical Storm Debby.
Public Works Director Juan Florensa said that the preliminary number of 150,000 cubic yards are necessary for the federal agencies to make their funding determination.
“Those numbers are given to establish federal disaster declaration. Once it is established, a team of experts come to assess the specific amount of sand loss with more rigorous survey work,” said Florensa.
Florensa also noted that the town is watching three ‘hot spots’ on the key where sand erodes more quickly than other areas. The hot spots are: the north end between Broadway Beach Access and Greer Island, the Yonkers seawall in the 6000 block of Gulf of Mexico Drive, and En Provence Condominiums just south of the Islander.
In the recent past during the 2006 beach renourishment, the Islander and the north end were the only two hot spots on the key. However, the Islander now has two permeable groins in front of its beach, and the north end is awaiting a structural solution for its erosion, such as groins.
These hot spots, said Florensa, would most likely be the only areas to receive renourishment if the federal disaster funding is made available to the town, although he said the town has the necessary permits to renourish any of the town’s shoreline if the commission should decide. In the past, the town’s beach renourishment would consist of the entire Longboat Key, however the current commission has decided a more cost effective method of renourishment is to add sand in only the places that are highly erosive.