Longboat’s canal plan: what to dredge, who will pay?

Editor & Publisher

The Town has a goal to dredge canals within the community to keep them navigable and to maintain property values.

But as in all policies, there is a cost. The Town Manager estimates a range of $4.2 million to $5.1 million to dredge 14 canals as well as up to an additional $1.15 million to dredge what is referred to as Greer Island/Canal 1A.

In 2016, the town undertook the task of determining what canals needed to be dredged as well as developing a sea grass mitigation plan. That plan includes planting up to four acres of sea grass as mitigation in the dredging project. The Town has a three-foot depth minimum as a design criteria for canals.

In addition to dredging the numerous canals that are scattered along the Bay side of Longboat Key, the Town has developed a plan to manage the movement of sand in and around the Longboat Pass area on the north end of the key. Over recent years, sand has eroded from the northern tip of Longboat and has accreted onto a sandbar that runs under New Pass Bridge and threatens to choke off the lagoon that is situated on the northwestern part of Longboat Key.

The difficulty with the Greer Island (a.k.a., Beer Can Island) project is that it is an environmentally sensitive area replete with sea grass. It also requires numerous permits, potentially even from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) for working around the bridge.

The Town expects to apply for the permits for the Greer Island project next month and permitting could take a year to complete.

In a Jan. 14 report, Public Works Director Isaac Brownman said that the spit of sand extending beneath the bridge is accreting at such a fast rate that it is now touching an adjacent dock structure. Brownman says this has restricted any passage for kayaks and canoes in the area. The town has asked the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) if it can conduct a small emergency project, but the FDEP said it would like the town to plan the project as a whole.

Brownman says the cost for the Greer Island project alone ranges between $475,000 and $1.15 million.

Brownman said that there is currently about $890,000 budgeted for the overall canal dredging project, leaving an unfunded balance of $3.3 million to $4.2 million.

“An alternate funding option may be needed,” wrote Brownman.

Although the issue will be discussed at a Jan. 21 workshop, the issue is being presented as informational at this point. But Brownman is clear in that the budget is under pressure based on the current cost estimates and only supports the design, engineering and permitting phase at this point.

On a larger front, the Town will have to develop a funding strategy.

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