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Date of Issue: January 12, 2006

Mother Nature unsure of bayside beach

Bayside Pic
Mother Nature returns
Today, that same area from the Rod & Reel Pier north along the shore to Bean Point has seen a resurgence of beach area. A photo taken at high tide last week shows sand has returned in front of several homes along the shore. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

Mother Nature can't seem to make up her mind about the beach along North Shore Drive in Anna Maria from the Rod & Reel Pier to the northern trip at Bean Point.

Four years ago, the beach had nearly disappeared and waves at high tide regularly breached the seawalls in front of many residences along the east side of North Shore Drive.

That prompted a number of concerns from residents and got Mayor SueLynn to get the city commission to agree in December 2003 to hire marine scientist Dr. Robert Dean from the University of Florida to do a study of beach erosion in the area.

But Mother Nature pulled a few more surprises.

The beach sand in this area of the city returned for a short period during the spring of 2004, then nearly disappeared completely following Hurricane Dennis in July 2005 and a few other hurricanes that passed near the Island.

That disappearance prompted a renewed call for Dean to complete his study and concerned residents asked the mayor to look into potential grants for beach renourishment in that area.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection then became involved in determining if the city's bayside beaches are considered “critically eroded” and thus eligible for a state grant for renourishment or other beach-saving measures.

But both the mayor and the DEP are anxiously awaiting the results of Dean's two-year study because his conclusions carry significant weight when the DEP decides to award a grant for erosion control.

The problem with erosion on the bayfront is that the area is not considered part of the Gulf of Mexico, according to Nancy Sloko of the DEP. As a result, that beach is technically not eligible for renourishment with federal and state funds, although the DEP did approve renourishment for a similar beach in Pensacola several years ago.

Sloko did tell the mayor that documents discovered by the DEP last summer may prove the city's east coast line is actually considered part of the Gulf of Mexico.

SueLynn said she's expecting Dean's final report in the near future and will meet with Sloko and other DEP representatives to review that report and its conclusions when it's available.

Sloko is then expected to have a definitive answer on whether or not that section of city coastline is part of the Gulf of Mexico or greater Tampa Bay.

In the meantime, however, Mother Nature has done something that's not so strange to many long-time Anna Maria residents.

The beach along the bayside of the city appears to be making a comeback.

A check at one high tide last week found 10 to 15 feet of beach sand between the seawall and water in front of some houses in the concerned area.

Many longtime city residents such as Tom Turner of North Shore Drive have said the beach in this area continually comes and goes.

Indeed, an aerial photograph of Bean Point and the city's east cost taken in 1983 shows about 20 feet of beach stretching out on the shore along North Shore Drive.

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