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Bullock says summer dredging will remedy clogged New Pass Channel

STEVE REID
Editor & Publisher
sreid@lbknews.com

New Pass Channel, which separates south Longboat from Lido Key, has always been known as ‘skinny water.’

As the channel enters the Gulf to the right is a large shoal that over the past year has expanded and now has blocked safe passage in and out of New Pass.

The U.S. Coast Guard has warned boaters that it is no longer safely navigable and removed the six buoys that inform boaters  how to safely navigate the waterway.

Town Manager Dave Bullock under pressure from boaters and residents met with the Coast Guard, the City of Sarasota, as well as Manatee County Officials and they talked about what can be done.

In short, the shoaling of the Pass occurred at the very time Longboat Key was having its permit to dredge New Pass considered by State Agencies and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The permit was recently approved and the town will soon award a bid for a contractor to dredge the channel 13 feet  below sea level at a width of 150-250 feet.

“Once we are done, the Channel will be navigable and then the Coast Guard will come in and evaluate if and where to ace navigation markers,” said Bullock.

Bullock said the permit places constraints and is akin to a building plan in that the town’s contractor must dredge exactly as the engineers designed and the state and federal agencies permitted. Bullock said in the past week he visited the Pass in a Longboat Police Boat, and said it was so shallow and it was definitely, “Not a trip to be repeated.”

Ultimately, the Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for maintenance of the area channels, but in the case of New Pass the Town of Longboat Key and City of Sarasota have adopted the role of dredging in order to benefit from the potential beach sand. The agreement between the City and Longboat Key is to perform a dredging of New Pass as needed about every six years and Longboat and Sarasota will alternate taking responsibility and receiving the benefit of the sand.

Bullock said the sand from the upcoming dredging is of tantamount importance to provide immediate relief to the condominiums on the south end of Longboat Key that have experienced severe erosion and the complete loss of their recreational beach as well as protective sand dunes in some instances.

Bullock said after the dredging is completed, the city and town can evaluate the channel and if the city wishes to dredge more extensively or with the establishment of the channel in mind, it can plan that into the next scheduled dredging.

For the town there is no lower cost sand available to renourish its beaches than that which accumulates on the two passes on either end of the Key. Bullock said if the City or town needs to dredge more frequently, that can be seen as an opportunity.

For recreational boaters, it marks the first time in decades that the New Pass Channel has become impassable. Boaters are now forced to either travel to Big Pass on the south end of Lido Key or travel 10 miles north of New Pass to Longboat Pass on the north end of Longboat Key to access the Gulf. Some residents have expressed dismay and concern that Longboat’s dredging project that will occur this summer will provide only a limited and temporary solution. Town officials have expressed concern that any attempt to alter that permit would only delay the opportunity the receive much needed sand.

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