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A plan to replace the seawall surrounding the Treasure Bay Golf and Tennis Recreation Center with a “living shoreline” has been temporarily paused by the city to secure additional grant funding.

TREASURE ISLAND — A plan to replace the seawall surrounding the Treasure Bay Golf and Tennis Recreation Center with a “living shoreline” has been temporarily paused by the city to secure additional grant funding.

According to city officials, a citywide seawall assessment performed in 2020 prioritized repairs needed at Treasure Bay and estimated the cost at approximately $1.8 million.

Instead of performing traditional seawall repairs, city staff determined Treasure Bay is a prime location to replace the fixed seawall with a living shoreline and applied for a grant from the Tampa Bay Estuary Program.

Assistant Public Works Director Stacy Boyles told the Beach Beacon “the 2,340 feet of seawall at the Treasure Bay Golf and Tennis facility is in need of major repairs that are costly. By converting the traditional seawall to a living shoreline and living seawall system, we can increase resiliency to the site, improve water quality, create habitat and take advantage of grant opportunities. The living shoreline project will also be an educational platform to show visitors seawall alternatives and the benefits of working with nature, instead of against it.”

According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, living shorelines incorporate a combination of coastal native vegetation for sediment stabilization and, if needed, breakwaters constructed of oyster shells, limestone rock or other structures conducive to the natural environment. Living shorelines serve to reduce erosion through the implementation of a natural salt marsh composed of deeply-rooted, fast-growing plants that provide shallow water habitat for marine species, attenuate and reduce wave energy, increase sediment acquisition, improve water quality, reduce pollution via wetland filtration, and moderate the effects of storms and floods.

In June 2020, a grant from the Tampa Bay Estuary Program was awarded in the amount of $173,224. The project will provide a living shoreline seawall design for the entire 2,340 feet of existing seawall and replacement of the first 500 feet of seawall on the northwest with a living shoreline, she explained.

However, Boyles said, “the project cannot move past the 30% conceptual design phase until a grant agreement is executed with the state. If the project continues prior to its execution, the city will not be eligible for funding associated with the activities that occurred prior to the agreement being in place. The remaining amount needed for the project is dependent on which additional facilities the city decides to add to the site.”

As part of the process it was determined that the ecological function of the golf course’s stormwater/hazard ponds will also be restored. In addition to the construction of the first 500 feet of living shoreline, the city then also decided to pursue grant funding to convert the remaining portions of seawall and add a kayak launch, along with a washdown station and walking trail around the perimeter of the facility.

In addition to the TBEP grant, the city has also applied for a Resilient Florida grant in the amount of $1.5 million to cover portions of costs associated with the design and construction of the rest of the living shoreline, the restoration of the site’s stormwater ponds, installation of an educational boardwalk and signage, and development of a resiliency berm. The city hopes to have the additional grant agreement in place by the end of the year.

“The city’s Master Park Plan identified a kayak launch at Treasure Bay as a potential desired amenity. We are in the process of scheduling community engagement opportunities to acquire more feedback,” Boyles said.

If the city does not receive funding from the Resilient Florida grant, it will likely move forward with the living shoreline portion of the project, but perhaps in a phased approach, Boyles noted. The project officially kicked off at the end of January 2021, with the design and permitting expected to take approximately one year to complete.

Invasive plants targeted on beach

An extensive project to spruce up the beach by removing invasive and exotic plant species, while improving a dune system that protects upland areas from flooding, is moving forward.

“Treasure Island’s dune management project aims to remove invasive vegetation in order to increase native biodiversity within the sand dunes. This project is underway and will be a continuous effort to keep up with regrowth,” Boyles told The Beach Beacon.

“As of now, the city’s contractor is performing removal activities on a quarterly basis and will adjust to a bi-annually recurrence after August 2022,” Boyles said. “In addition to the removal of invasives, the city is also removing vegetation growing in other select central beach areas in effort to increase recreational space. This effort began earlier this year and will re-start after the sea turtle nesting season.”

According to the city’s website, activity includes removal of vegetation along the central beach from 104th to 119th Avenue to satisfy aesthetic concerns brought forward by several city businesses and residents.

In 2014, the city was involved in litigation pertaining to vehicles on the beach. As a result, all unnecessary beach activities requiring vehicles and or heavy equipment were ceased. Since this time, vegetation has filled in significantly. In January 2020, a vegetation removal permit application was submitted to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection requesting the removal of native species along the central beach to mimic the 2014 beach conditions.

“Once native non-invasive dune species are given the opportunity to fill in the spaces that were once occupied by invasives, they will provide a better habitat and greater dune stabilization thanks to their complex root systems holding the sand in place,” Boyles said. “One of the species targeted in this removal effort are new-growth Australian pines. This tree has a shallow root system and its litter secretes a biochemical that limits the regrowth capability of native plants. The trees are also known for impacting space that could be used for nesting sea turtles.”

According to information supplied by the city, the project requires that the contractor dispose of the removed vegetation on a daily basis, so that they are not spread by wind or other factors.

Control of invasive and exotic vegetation is a long-term process that must be maintained as most are fast-growing. The initial removal process began at the end of January 2021 and will be completed by the end of April 2022. After that, there will be a 30-day follow-up removal followed by quarterly removals for the remainder of the year, according to the city.