Town fashions beach plan to combat erosion

Associate Publisher

At Monday’s workshop, commissioners directed town staff and Olsen Associates, the town’s beach engineering firm, to progress forward with the permitting of five groins at the north end of the key. The commission decided, temporarily at least, to only build four.

The reason for the contingency plan is because the town has to approach Manatee County to determine if they would be willing to allow the fifth groin on the north end of Greer Island, which it owns.

Parts of the discussion included what type of groins would be put in place (rock groins), what effects on the beach the groins would have, and the placement of the groins (three groins north of the currently existing two permeable groins at the North Shore Road beach access, and two groins south of the existing permeable groins).

The permit the town is seeking will also include an interim beach renourishment with a truck sand haul to be placed between the two existing permeable adjustable groins at the North Shore Road beach access. This area is severely eroded and condominium owners at 360 North and Longbeach Condominiums are concerned because their buildings are in jeopardy should a storm event occur.

“We’re in a situation where we’re going to put sand fill in between the permeable adjustable groins,” said Public Works Project Manager James Linkogle.

Al Browder with Olsen Associates explained some of the factors to be considered when deciding to include four or five groins in the permit.

“The previous discussion was for the five groin solution. In the course of discussions in the November meetings we talked with Manatee County. They discussed with us during the next dredging of the Longboat Pass, which it’s their turn, and they’re willing to share the sand from that with us for Greer Island. The four versus five, is two or three groins north of the existing structures. That area belongs to Manatee County, they are not particularly interested in the third, or northernmost, structure. Scaling back to two structures there would make it very difficult to renourish with deposits. In two or more years’ time you would have to continue to renourish the northernmost spit. The farther north you place more groins, the more you stabilize. Manatee County owns that parcel, and they really don’t want that third structure. At the end of the day, its’ a matter of degree for you, how much do you want to stabilize, how much do you want to renourish?” said Browder.

Browder pointed out that there are no condominiums in the area of the third northernmost groin, it’s the lagoon and the recreational amenity. He did inform the commission that by adding the third groin, that it stabilizes the beach south of the groin and decreases the size of the spit of land north of the groin where Greer Island beach goes under the bridge at Longboat Pass. This spit of land was one of the discussion points as the commission was unsure of how much this piece of land needed to be saved, since it had grown in recent years, almost cutting off the water and making an enclosed lagoon.

“If you make the northernmost groin longer, the wave action will be significantly reduced, even if its permeable, and you increase the size of the beach southward but decrease the size of the beach northward. It’s just the way it works,” explained Browder.

Mayor George Spoll asked what effect not having the third groin at the north end would have on that spit where the lagoon is located.

Browder said the spit where the bridge is would go back to the way it was in 2002. If the town builds the two groins, it still will have gone a long way to stabilize the beach southward.

Spoll followed up by asking if a third groin would help, and Browder said yes, but could not give an accurate amount of whether it would be just by five percent, 30 percent, or more.

Spoll was concerned with Manatee County’s lack of willingness to place the third groin on Greer Island.

“Let me say what is really on my mind. Manatee County has had little interest in maintaining this portion of the island. It seems to be an annoyance to them. I have suggested that they could deed it to us for $1 and let us maintain it. It bugs the heck out of me that they won’t let us maintain it, but are not willing to pay for it to be maintained. I think we are doing the most that we can without offending them instead of doing what is the best for Longboat,” said Spoll.

Town Manager Tom Harmer stepped in and addressed the issue with Manatee County.

“Manatee County has expressed an interest in writing that they support the two groin approach and want a ‘wait and see’ approach on the third groin. They want to have a more natural approach to see what happens in the northern portion of the Greer Island instead of maintaining its current condition,” said Harmer.

Commissioner Ken Schneier asked if Manatee County might have any other beach related reason they may not want the third groin to be built, and Browder said that the impact on Anna Maria Island’s sediment would be minimal.

Commissioner Jack Daly asked, “Politically, if we were to go forward with the two groins and acquiesce to Manatee on the third groin for the time being, is there any additional assistance we’ll get from Manatee for the sand?”

Harmer said that he thinks Manatee County has offered to help in the sand dredge to give Longboat some from the next Longboat Pass dredge.

“They will give 170,000 cubic yards to Longboat. They offered up this and the next dredge will be ours. I would say there’s an expectation of more reciprocal negotiations,” said Harmer.

Pat Zunz spoke before the commission and urged them to seek the five groins.

“Bob Bunting has shared with us a lot of information; he is a scientist. He believes we would be making a big mistake if we don’t put in a third terminal groin. A lot of the sand that goes into the Pass is Longboat Key sand, not Anna Maria sand. Manatee County is not interested because they only look out for themselves, but we have to look out for ourselves and I don’t think we should give up that easily. I think we have been stingy with what we have put on the beach. If you don’t put the most sand possible on your beaches you are wasting your money. We need to do the right thing; do the right thing,” said Zunz.

Schneier made it clear he agreed that it was a good idea to proceed with the four groin approach but permitting the fifth groin, only if it didn’t make a delay, or inhibit the town’s ability to negotiate with Manatee County.

Commissioner Jack Daly agreed.

“I see value in what Ken (Schneier) said, which is to go with the four, but the permitting of the fifth recognizing the conditions that Ken just laid out,” said Daly.

Browder said, “If I may say, I advise the recommendation of moving forward with five, and then ask Manatee County and if it becomes problematic, withdraw and erase the fifth. Manatee County will understand completely. If everybody disagrees, then we can change.”

Public Works Director Isaac Brownman stated that the permit was originally slated to ask for five groins, and that it would be simple to put back in the permit application. The commission gave consensus to move forward with the permitting of the five groins and interim beach renourishment, and planning on building four groins until discussions with Manatee County.

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