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Date of Issue: February 02, 2006

Pipeline becoming danger to tourism, beachgoers

landscape pic
Pipeline to nowhere
Beach sand has eroded under this section of pipe used for the beach renourishment project, creating a safety hazard according to some Island elected officials and accommodation owners. Islander Photo: Courtesy Kevin Fitzgerald

The 1960s instrumental hit "Pipeline" should be played every day on the Island along the miles of unused and unmoved pipe that were to be used for the beach renourishment project that was scheduled to end last October.

That's because the pipes left by Goodloe Marine are rapidly becoming a safety hazard to beachgoers and an economic threat and eyesore to the beachfront accommodation owners who depend upon winter visitors for survival.

Goodloe halted the renourishment project in mid-December, claiming it did not want to work during the winter season, but left all its equipment - heavy machinery and pipes - on the beach. Now, neither the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - sponsors and funders of the project - nor Goodloe are saying when the equipment will be removed or when the project will resume.

"I'm really upset about this," said Richard Hazen, owner of the Angelina Sea Lodge in Holmes Beach.

"People pay big money to get to the beach. When they see the pipes, they ask ‘What's this?' A lot of them just get in the car and drive elsewhere."

And the pipes have become exposed and fallen down in several areas, he said.

"There's a safety issue. Sooner or later, someone is going to get hurt," he added.

Marge Moran of Club Bamboo in Bradenton Beach has also had complaints about the pipes on the beach.

"Our customers are really upset. They didn't pay for a beachfront unit to sit and watch a rusty pipe all day. It's hard for some people to climb over those pipes to get to the water."

Hazen said people, including small children, are always walking or climbing on the pipes. The sand under many sections of the pipes has already washed away and Goodloe recently used a bulldozer to shore up the berm under the pipes.

But that sand apparently has already washed away in many places and a good storm would likely break some sections of pipe free from the "pipeline," sending pipes into the sea.

What's got Holmes Beach Mayor Carol Whitmore upset is that renourishment in Holmes Beach has been completed, but the pipes remain.

"I can't get an answer from anyone on when the pipes will be removed. No one at the Corps or Goodloe is talking to me," she said, although she did express her concerns to Manatee County Ecosystems Manager Charlie Hunsicker, who told her he would try to get some answers.

Hunsicker said he's forwarded pictures of the exposed pipes to the Corps' district office in Jacksonville along with a letter expressing his concerns about the safety issue on the beach, but has not yet received a response.

Whitmore fired off a letter to the Corps last week, saying the pipes on the beach are a "major safety issue" and the 3- to 4-foot dropoff from the pipes to the beach in some locations has the potential for a major lawsuit if anyone gets hurt.

"It looks like all the beach has been eroded around the pipes," she said, and water is running under the pipes in many sections.

"Could I please have a response," she begged the Corps, noting that she still hasn't received a reply to her e-mail about the pipes earlier this month.

"I think if you could have someone come down to physically look at this issue, you would see what safety concerns I'm talking about," she concluded.

Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie, who is also upset about the equipment on the beach, said he's supposed to have a meeting with Goodloe and the Corps "soon" about the future of the project, but no definite date has been set by the Corps.

"It's frustrating. It's really upsetting me that no one seems to care about the people here," he said.

Unfortunately for Island elected officials and residents, this beach renrourishment effort is a federally funded project headed by the Corps and it might be easier to find Elvis than get a direct answer from them.

One source involved in the project said the Corps was trying to schedule a meeting with Goodloe, Island elected officials and the Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch organization to see if the project could resume April 1 with a May 1 completion date.

The source said Goodloe would "stockpile" its pipes and equipment somewhere on the beach until the restart date, but stressed that nothing has yet been confirmed by the Corps.

Instead of "Pipeline," someday people may be playing "Wipeout" along the beach.

Corps considers giving Goodloe the boot

Ron Rutger of the Corps office in Jacksonville said the Corps will meet this week with Goodloe Marine to consider whether or not the company would continue with the renourishment project.

While Rutger declined to elaborate on problems with Goodloe, the company has claimed that bad weather last year forced a number of delays in the project, an argument that some Island elected officials can't accept.

"That's hard to believe because the Longboat Key beach renourishment project didn't have any weather delays," said Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie.

Longboat Key Mayor Ron Johnson confirmed that the company hired for beach renourishment did not halt for any weather problems and is continuing the project, even during the winter tourist season.

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