Lido sand plan heads back to bid; Siesta keeps up fight

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Sarasota City Manager Tom Barwin said last week that the contentious plan to renourish Lido Beach with sand dredged from Big Pass with go back out to bid in the coming weeks.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers canceled the bid previously for the long-term Lido Beach Renourishment and stabilization project due to “unreasonably high prices,” said Barwin.

Currently, the Corps is rewriting the specifications of the bid and plans to have it back out within weeks.

The City of Sarasota is co-applicant with the USACE for a state permit for the long-range Lido Beach dredging project, which will allow dredging up to 1.3 million cubic yards of sand from Big Pass to renourish about 1.6 miles of highly-eroded Lido Key Beach.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) approved the permit in June 2018, but lawsuits stemming from opponents on Siesta Key have threatened the project.

Currently, one lawsuit is in 12th Judicial Circuit Court and the other is in the U.S. District Court in Tampa. The lawsuits allege that the dredging will destabilize and negatively impact the shoreline of Siesta Key and have environmental impacts. Additionally, the opponents have challenged the City’s approval as well as the usage of the park on South Lido Beach as a staging area.

The City Commission voted unanimously in support of the 50-year stabilization plan and expressed that support via resolution last year.

Part of the problem with the recent bids is the lowest bid came in at more than $22 million, when the USACE anticipated a total cost of less than $15 million.

The City Commission on Aug. 19 unanimously approved a $1.147 million agreement with FDEP for a long-range Lido Key hurricane and storm damage reduction project. This action will compliment the long-range renourishment and build on the recently-completed emergency renourishment of Lido that took place last winter. The 205,000 cubic yards that was used in the emergency renourishment was dredged from New Pass, which separates Longboat Key and City Island.

Longboat and the City of Sarasota have an agreement to alternately dredge and spread the sand in needed erosion hotspots on Longboat and Lido.

The issue of dredging Big Pass has stirred emotions between the two islands with both Lido Key and Siesta Key in turn raising money from individual property owners as well as hoteliers and other commercial interests to bolster the legal fight against each other.

Siesta Key has maintained that the project will cause irreparable harm. Lido Key has taken the position that the majority of the sand in Big Pass accumulated from erosion off of Lido and that extensive studies show that taking a fraction of the sand from the shoal poses no threat to Siesta other than emotionalism.

Thus far, the region has been spared hurricane or major tropical storm activity during this season.

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