The Lido Key Beach Nourishment and Groins project is being proposed by the City of Sarasota and the Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE).
Their plan is to nourish approximately 1.6 miles of shoreline on Lido Key with over 1 million cubic yards of sand to be taken from Big Sarasota Pass and its ebb shoal. This dredge is repeated every 5 years and will amount to about 250,000 large dump truck loads of sand. Two rubble mound groins will also be constructed at the south end of Lido Key. They will consist of 2-ton armor stones, placed on 12-inch-thick foundation mats, lying on geotextile fabric. The northern groin will be 170 feet in length and the southern groin will be 345 feet in length. The ACOE have applied for a 15 year permit but have talked about a 50 year plan. The project will also require mitigation for direct impacts to 1.68 acres of seagrasses located within the borrow areas. The creation of 2.9 acres of seagrass habitat is planned at Perico Preserve which is located about 20 miles away in Manatee County. The City says they have set aside 2.5 million dollars to compensate for any damages which they have said is unlikely and further that they will monitor the work. What could possibly go wrong?
Before listing the myriad of things that are likely to go wrong, we should state this is not a war between Lido and Siesta. Lido can obtain the sand they need from other places including some of the same sources used in the previous 13 dredges.
Problems with the current plan
Groins are massive structures that aside from being unsightly, are dangerous to beach walkers and swimmers. Downdrift (which on this coast typically means south) of every groin there is erosion or scalloping. What is directly downdrift of the biggest groin? Ted Sperling Park which will suffer massive erosion.
Big Pass is currently the only viable access from Sarasota to the Gulf. New Pass is the Federally authorized channel which was dredged in August of 2016. However, in less than 10 months the aids to navigation have been removed due to shoaling! This is exactly what will happen in Big Pass if they dredge the additional channel. This is because in messing with Mother Nature, they will be changing the hydraulics of the channel. The waterflow will slow down because it will be flowing through two channels. The river of sand that moves in and out on each tide will not have the force to carry it and it will drop to the bottom, clogging Big Pass. This will prevent all but the smallest boats from reaching the Gulf. And the ACOE is not permitted to dredge it for navigational purposes, only for sand. And, in addition, the plan is to come back no sooner than 5 years and even that seems optimistic. (In New Pass, it took 7 years before it was dredged again and during four years of that time it was not possible to transit in a boat with over a 2-3 foot draft!)
Siesta Key has the #1 beach in the US and #5 in the world. Siesta Key provides more revenue than the entire City of Sarasota including Lido Key. Why would anyone risk damaging Siesta Beach especially since independent reviewers have said that this dredge could cause serious problems for our beaches or that they cannot support the ACOE claims of no harm to Siesta Beach.
Seagrass mitigation is fraught with difficulties. Attempts at transplanting seagrasses in Florida have been disappointing, with studies showing low survival and success rates. A 1998 report issued by NOAA’s Coastal Ocean Program states that based on reports from the Panama City Florida Field Office, the degree of success of permit-related mitigation has been generally poor and in many cases, is unknown. Further this same report indicated that on a national scale, only approximately 10 percent of the planting achieved 100 percent cover within the monitoring period. In addition to the seagrass that is being mitigated, there is significant additional seagrass just outside the Big Pass dredge area that will be impacted. Finally, the manatees, spotted eagle rays and trout who feed and mate in the Big Pass area are unlikely to swim the 20 miles to Perico Preserve for food.
Why bother monitoring something if you are not going to fix it? And once you change the hydraulics in Big Pass you may not even be able to fix the problems that will be created. And 2.5 million dollars set aside for damages is less than cost of a single home in Sandy Hook to say nothing of all the houses and seawalls along north Siesta Key or all the condos and beaches. No, this is a case where there is zero tolerance for error.
With almost 3000 petitions opposing the dredge of Big Pass and a well financed opposition, it appears that the City has failed to recognize that their current approach is a dead end. While we cannot tell them what to do, it seems most prudent for them to develop a Plan B that does not involve using sand from the Big Pass shoal as we suggested to them several years ago. There is no "safe" option for dredging the Siesta Key shoal in spite of the ACOE and others claims. We are adamantly opposed to dredging any portion of the Big Pass shoal as the City Manager will be glad to tell you.
How you can help
There are two ways that you can help defeat this terrible plan. First, you can join the almost 3,000 people who have signed petitions opposing dredging Big Pass. And even if you have signed one before you can do it again and add your comments as to why you oppose the dredge. Sign here.
Second, you can join all the people and organizations listed on our donations page who have given, some many times, to save this untouched island from this disastrous plan. You can help support SOSS2 by making your tax free donation to our Legal fund. Click here to donate.