Beach renourishment project expected to begin this month

The stretch of Pinellas County shoreline from Redington Shores to Sand Key in Clearwater is scheduled for beach renourishment this month.

INDIAN SHORES – The stretch of Pinellas County shoreline from Redington Shores to Sand Key in Clearwater, scheduled for beach renourishment, is dotted with several beachfront parcels not eligible to receive dredged sand because property owners refused to grant the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers a perpetual easement along their waterfront.

The dredging and beach nourishment project is expected to cost $51.5 million, with the federal government paying $40.1 million and the county and state each paying $5.7 million. The county’s portion will be paid with Tourist Development Tax funds dedicated to beach nourishment.

On March 28, environmental officials from the county and Corps of Engineers, along with project engineers, held a town hall meeting at the Indian Shores Municipal Complex.

Indian Shores Councilman Mike Hackerson attended with poster board maps depicting which beachfront parcels would be nourished with sand from Egmont Key and which would be skipped over.

He explained those residents that did not agree to participate thought “granting a perpetual easement was an unnecessary taking of their property.” Others did not like the idea of what a “berm” implied in front of their property.

Longtime Indian Shores resident Jose Coppen called the request for a perpetual easement “a land grab” and said it is not necessary under federal regulation.

However, another long-time Indian Shores resident who remembers when Indian Shores beach was mostly rocks, Dee Smith, said additional sand will be “an improvement.”

John Bishop, the county’s project manager, explained a berm is necessary to prevent damage from wave action during storms and as a way to curtail erosion.

According to Corps requirements, constructing the full project was dependent on getting easements for the dredging contractor to go on private land.

In addition to allowing for construction, these easements ensure that sand placed on private lands are open to the public. To reach the correct beach elevation during construction, portions of the landward edge of the project will need to be constructed on private land, officials explained.

In contrast to the northern segment of the project, the Corps was able to secure all the necessary easements for nourishment to proceed on Sunset Beach in Treasure Island, mainly with help from Caddy’s On The Beach, which granted access to the Corps.

Caddy’s general manager Ken Hautmann said they had no problem granting the Army Corps an easement; he hopes the portion to renourish Sunset Beach gets started and finished quickly along West Gulf Boulevard.

The renourishment project, awarded in September to Norfolk Dredging, is expected to begin in Treasure Island soon.

The contractor anticipates mobilizing the Treasure Island site April 1, with nourishment commencing around April 15. Treasure Island’s Sunshine Beach and Sunset Beach will get sand dredged from John’s Pass.

Next, in late May, the contractor will begin renourishing North Redington Beach with sand from the Egmont Shoal Borrow area; nourishment will proceed from south to north, finishing at the Ultimar Condo in Clearwater. Dredging on the northern section will take up to six months to complete.

During this project, special care will be taken to remove rocks and shells from dredged sand, Laurel Reichold, Army Corps project manager explained.

When it comes to environmental concerns, Reichold said the Corps will be careful to protect sea turtle nests and two protected forging shorebirds; the small sand-colored, sparrow-sized, piping plover and the reddish, medium-sized Red Knot, along with other seabirds.

In a separate Upham Beach Stabilization Project on St. Pete Beach, Bishop said two of four rock groin structures planned for that area of beach were constructed in December; however, due to rough winter weather up north, barges carrying materials could not make it down the Mississippi River with two additional groins. Work should be able to proceed next month, just to install the remaining groins.

Once work resumes, the contractor estimates it will take an additional three to four months to complete the project. Upon resuming work, the Upham Beach project area restricted from public access will largely be isolated to the north end of the beach. Access to the remainder of Upham Beach will be open to the public, including unobstructed access to beaches to the south.

Reichold said $3.4 million to complete the Upham Beach nourishment project with additional dredged sand is part of this year’s federal budget, but it has to be appropriated though the Office of Management and Budget. In from 30 to 60 days the Corps will be notified if it has approval to put dredged sand on Upham Beach.