Big Pass Dredge Affects All Greater Sarasota

Letter from Bob Spicer

BY SRQ DAILY SATURDAY PERSPECTIVES EDITION SATURDAY JUL 22, 2017

The Army Corps of Engineers has proposed to the City of Sarasota dredging Big Pass as the only solution to get sand to re-nourish Lido Beach. Lido Beach continues to erode and needs sand immediately—especially to protect against this year’s tropical storm and hurricane season.

The Army Corps proposal consists of dredging a 13-feet-deep-by-500-feet-wide-by-2-mile-long channel to be dug through Big Pass as well as dredging the surface of the shoals that are currently protecting the mouth of Big Pass from storm waves that could otherwise impact South Lido Key, South Bird Key and North Siesta Key.

Although Lido Key only needs 500,000 cubic yards of sand to re-nourish their beach, the Army Corp of Engineers plans to dredge over 1.3 million cubic yards of sand from Big Pass that they plan to  take every five years for the next 50 years. This is sand equivalent to the full width of Interstate-75 (including median)—10 feet deep, from University Parkway to Fruitville Road. That’s more than an entire Empire State Building full of sand.

The earliest the dredging can occur is 2018, because no money has even been allocated yet and has to be proposed in the Federal Budget to try and get a 60-percent supplement to pay for the dredging costs. Lido Beach could be gone by then.  Lido Beach can get sand tomorrow at little to no cost to them from New Pass, which is currently closed to navigation because of dredging, due to too much sand in the pass. Other immediate, low cost sand sources are within the area.

If the Army Corps is allowed to dredge Big Pass, it will have a devastating effect on storm wave action,  (50 percent increase in wave height), tourism, ($2.8 billion annually in this area), destruction of fish, mammals, wildlife and recreational activities—not to mention the loss of our natural state park for boaters and beach goers—at Big Pass. 

In wave action alone, a 3-foot storm wave will now be over a 5-foot wave, which would result in  nearly an 80-percent increase in destructive wave energy. This will affect South Lido Key, Southwest Bird Key, North Siesta Key and, if the storm is large enough, the downtown City of Sarasota .

This is not a Siesta Key vs. Lido Key issue. All of the Greater Sarasota area will be affected with the dredging of Big Pass.

Lido residents plan on using a taxpayer bailout, using taxpayer dollars to fund the re-nourishment of their beach.

Lido Key luxury property owners want the taxpayers to pay to put sand on their private luxury gulf front resorts at a cost to taxpayers of over $200 million (estimated).

Lido Key luxury property investors will pay nothing in personal costs. They want taxpayers to pay to do it 10 times over the next 50 years.

The public cannot access those beaches. They’re private luxury resorts owned by investors. These properties are worth more than $680 million and owners don’t want to pay anything to nourish their private beaches for 50 years.

Nearly all other beach re-nourishments in our area were completed with resident taxpayers footing the bill.

In 2016, Sarasota County re-nourished Turtle Beach at a total cost of $21.5 million.  The State of Florida provided a grant and Sarasota County utilized Tourist Taxes aggregating $18 million to fund the cost of re-nourishing the public waterfront property owned by Sarasota County.  Siesta Key waterfront property owners along Turtle Beach, most of whom are permanent Siesta Key residents, will pay the remaining $3.5 million over the next seven years. The Siesta Key property owners get no guarantee. In 2007 they also had to pay to have Turtle Beach re-nourished.  If there is a storm and the beach needs to be re-nourished again, they will pay again.

Long Boat Key re-nourishes their beach using sand from New Pass and Long Boat Pass. They have also transported sand from Bradenton Beach in the past. Longboat then levies taxes to the property owners for regular beach renewal.

Why not harvest 500,000 cubic yards of sand from New Pass now?

Bob Spicer is a board member for the Siesta Key Association.

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