Year in Review 2014: Severe beach erosion, north end fix underway

This year marked the year that construction finally began on the north end groins, a structural solution to the constant erosion at the north end beaches. Plans for the groins began during the last islandwide beach renourishment back in 2006.

In June of 2014, beach renourishment discussion began as well as a long-range plan for how to maintain Longboat’s beaches.

Town Manager Dave Bullock told the commission what projects will be necessary, what he expects them to cost, and where that money will come from to keep Longboat’s beach in shape and protecting shoreline structures over the next eight years.

According to Bullock, the cost to taxpayers will be in the $20-25 million range to accomplish a series of projects that ultimately shovel sand in one way or another on the shoreline.

The first metric Bullock uses is the sand volume needed to keep the adopted shoreline in place. According to the town’s engineer, Olsen and Associates, the island can be divided into four areas of need from north to south.

The north end received about 125,000 cubic yards of sand that was dredged from Longboat Pass, since it is one of the most erosive parts of the key.

As a more permanent solution, the town began construction in December of 2014 on the installation of two semi-permeable groins, one installed at the edge of the seawall at the end of North Shore Road and one just north of the 360 North Condominium. The groins are engineered to jut perpendicular from the shoreline and trap sand in a manner that can be adjusted to achieve the desired result.

Another highly erosive ‘hot spot’ on Longboat Key is the area along Gulfside Road and the historical Yonkers property. Bullock said that area will also receive a large amount of sand – up to 350,000 cubic yards – from Longboat Pass in the same dredging operation that will serve the north end next year. Bullock said he thinks there’s enough sand in Longboat Pass to fill in both the north end of the key as well as the area around the Yonkers property.

Another area of severe erosion is at the very south end of Longboat Key. Condominium owners in Longboat Key Club Islandside wrote to the town this year that the beach demanded immediate attention and was threatening the dune structures and ultimately their property.

As a remedy, the town considered bringing thousands of trucks in over a short period to deposit upland sand later this year, as a temporary measure, but determined that not to be a reasonable solution. Several property owners and potential visitors said that the trucking method would be overly intrusive and ruin their vacation. Therefore, Bullock decided to link the south end renourishment with the New Pass dredging as well.

Over the next two years, Bullock predicts that the town will collect $20,827,034 in beach funds with the majority ($15.68 million) coming from taxpayers on Longboat through its beach millage assessment.

The total cost to accomplish all the renourishment projects outlined above totals $23,846,192.

Voters authorized via a referendum in 2011, for the town to tax $16 million to spend on the beach. Bullock recommends assessing that millage this year.

The beach millage will be assessed in two districts with District A paying about 80 percent and District B the remaining 20 percent. District A is comprised of all properties located on the Gulf of Mexico.

District A taxpayers by way of an example will pay $1,103 in 2015 on a $1.3 million home. District B taxpayers will pay $233.45 on a $1.1 million home.

The right for the town to assess the $16 million was granted by voters, and the town is now poised to exercise the collection.

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