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Date of Issue: January 30, 2008

County calls on Anna Maria to back renourishment

am-beach-project-01-30.jpg

If the planned state/county/federal beach renourishment project on Anna Maria Island slated to begin in 2011-12 is anything like the 2002 project, expect plenty of sparks and verbal exchanges between government officials and Islanders who oppose the plan.

Expect such particularly in Anna Maria, where renourishment efforts in the past have had some stormy waters to navigate.

In 2002, a county-run project didn't get enough of the required easements from Anna Maria residents to meet federal guidelines for funding and that portion of the project - just .6 mile - had to be paid for with county resort-tax dollars and some state funds.

In addition, the question of enough beach-access parking spaces raised the ire of a number of residents who said more parking would only add more day-time visitors to the residential city.

Alas, the 2011-12 effort already is off to a potentially poor start in Anna Maria.

County commissioners at their Jan. 22 meeting suggested that Anna Maria needed to do more to get the easements and parking spaces the federal government requires for its financial aid before the county will spend its money for renourishment in the city.

County Commissioner Carol Whitmore said she could not support paying the county’s portion of the $7.5 million to renourish Anna Maria’s beaches with only “bed tax” dollars and no federal aid - as was the case in 2002 - if Anna Maria city officials don't get the necessary easement and parking requirements.

“Unless your commission and public agree on appropriate parking spaces for beach renourishment, I can’t support spending only county money” for the project, Whitmore told Anna Maria Mayor Fran Barford.

Barford told city commissioners at their Jan. 22 meeting that she was informed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection that the city is short 38 to 40 parking spaces of the federal requirements.

Barford, however, confidently advised commissioners "not to worry," that she and public works director George McKay can find the required parking spaces. In any event, she said, the DEP is coming back to Anna Maria and will inspect each parking space with city officials.

While the city met the 2002 parking requirement, this renourishment will be in different beach areas and will renourish about 1.5 miles of beach compared to the prior project’s .6 mile, said Manatee County ecosystems director Charlie Hunsicker.

The current proposal for beach renourishment in Anna Maria calls for areas off North Shore Drive and Bean Point to be renourished, extending around Bean Point to several hundred yards north of the Rod & Reel Pier, near the Jacaranda-North Bay Boulevard intersection, Hunsicker said.

Although still three to four years away, planning for renourishment projects is extensive, Hunsicker added.

Hunsicker, along with marine engineers from Coastal Planning and Engineering of Boca Raton, will hold a work session with Anna Maria residents at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 12.

Whitmore said she would also attend.

Hunsicker cautioned that this is the initial meeting for beach renourishment and there are still many elements of the proposal that have to be brought together during the next three to four years.

Under a separate renourishment plan and funding cycle, the .6 mile portion of the beach near the Sandbar Restaurant will be renourished starting in November.

Anna Maria Island underwent an "emergency" renourishment in 2005 following some major erosion resulting from several hurricanes passing through the Gulf of Mexico in the prior year’s storm cycle.

That project was never completed as the contractor, Goodloe Marine of Apollo Beach, failed to finish the renourishment by the expiration of the permit.

Beach areas that were not renourished at that time include an area adjacent to the Sandbar and from 12th Street North in Bradenton Beach south to Coquina Beach. The November project will renourish those areas, Hunsicker said, at no cost to the county.

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