Longboat seeks to stabilize north-end erosion

Associate Publisher

At times, it has seemed like nothing could help the north end beach erosion problem. Property owners at 360 North and Longbeach condominiums have had to wonder if their buildings would survive the fate of being next to the Gulf day after day, with little-to-no beach protection to keep the waves from hitting their homes.

At a town commission workshop Nov. 13, commissioners decided that a comprehensive strategy of protecting the north end beaches should be taken. This will include moving forward with five rock groins, a beach renourishment of 180,000 cubic yards and asking Manatee County to pay for a portion of the $9-$12 million project, since it owns Greer Island. There are currently two existing permeable adjustable groins at the North Shore Road access.

Commissioner George Spoll said, “I’d encourage us to proceed down the path of a comprehensive plan and we should confront Manatee County with it. We ought to do the planning, and we can twist and turn later.”

Town Manager Dave Bullock made sure he understood the direction the commission wanted to go in.

“We will initiate permitting for all five groins including the funding costs and prepare a specific request for Manatee County.  I do recommend we come at this with a lower quality sand than we have tolerated in other projects.”


A multitude of options

Dr. Al Browder of Olsen Associates, Inc. was the representative charged with explaining all the details and options of three specific plans for maintaining the beach at the north end of the key.

Browder explained option one will cost $3.3 million and includes one rock groin to be placed north of the current northernmost groin and a beach renourishment of approximately 50,000 cubic yards of sand to be placed between the rock groin and the North Shore Road beach access.

Option two will cost $6 million and it includes two rock groins placed north of the two existing permeable adjustable groins, and a beach renourishment of approximately 90,000 cubic yards.

The third option is the most comprehensive in stabilizing the beach at the north end of the island, and costs $9 million – $12 million. It includes three rock groins placed north of the two existing permeable adjustable groins, and two rock groins placed southward of the adjustable groins. It requires a beach renourishment of 135,000 cubic yards on the northern portion of the existing groins, and 45,000 cubic yards south of the existing groins.


Commissioners, residents weigh in

Most commissioners were in favor of asking Manatee County to contribute the cost of the maintenance of Greer Island, which has changed its shape many times in the past couple of decades. The sand from the beach has looped around to underneath the New Pass Bridge, almost touching the opposite side of the north end.

Commissioner Randy Clair said, “I’m in favor of all five groins, but the furthest north should be considered a financial responsibility of Manatee County, and a portion of the sand. If they don’t want to contribute, we should let nature take its way and see what happens.”

Spoll added, “We ought to calculate the maximum cost and leave that for negotiation with the county.”

Town Manager Dave Bullock reminded the commission that they are scheduled to meet with Manatee County in February of 2018.

“We should have our goals and priorities out before we discuss this with Manatee County. Once we get beyond the structures on Longboat Key; at what point does Greer Island – if it disappears – threaten Longboat Key? I think we have to know our desires for the total picture,” said Mayor Terry Gans.

Dr. Al Browder of Olsen Associates, Inc. described the proposed beach project in scope and said, “The fact that it is not covered with homes makes it an expensive project for maintaining a county property.”

Commissioner Irwin Pastor thought that Greer Island could potentially be considered a protective barrier for the homes on the north end of the key.

“To preserve the park and aesthetics; wouldn’t it be a problem for the homes at the north end? I would think that if we lost that land it would be a problem for the houses and condos. We need it for stabilization,” said Pastor.

Bullock wanted to clarify that the commission should be mainly considering what direction it should take and not what the engineering should be and said, “What is the level of protection offered to the homes by Greer Island? I think the answer by Al (Browder) would be ‘it depends.’ In a big storm, it may not offer any protection, but if it’s a small storm it may offer incremental protection. A storm like (Hurricane) Katrina rolling through may not do anything to help those homes. What we do here is a policy discussion rather than an engineering discussion.”

Pastor replied, “The point I’m trying to make is that if a Category 2 or 3 hurricane came through it would help those buildings.”

Commissioner Jack Daly wanted to know which of the three options presented by Browder would get the town the “best bang for the buck?”

Browder responded that option one would protect the structures at the north end, including 360 North Condominiums and Longbeach Condominiums. Options two and three would protect the condominiums and the mangroves.

Several residents at the north end spoke at the workshop as well, giving their thoughts on what would be best for the north end. All seemed to think that while spending a lot of money in the beginning may seem daunting, that the groins will pay for themselves with the money saved in less cost for beach renourishments over time.

Maureen Merrigan of North Shore Road said, “It does seem like we’re spending money on the sand already. I wouldn’t underplay the beauty aspect of it either. It seems like it’s a good investment. I like the rock solution, too. I would suggest we do the whole thing and stabilize the area.”

Bonnie McNabb also supported the five-groin plan.

“Thanks to the commission for approving the two groins we’ve got. I’d like to support the five groins plan,” said McNabb.

Bob Bunting also of North Shore Road said, “From my point of view, if we do less than five groins, we’re going to be spending more on sand. Even though the up front cost is high; it’s a huge return per year, $13.6 million over 10 years. It makes sense to me to do as much as we can right now. We have water in our yard at high tide.”

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