LARGO — Pinellas County commissioners gave their support during an April 8 work session to a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requesting reauthorization of the Shore Protection Project at Treasure Island and Long Key.
The county has completed a Coastal Storm Risk Management Study to reauthorize the project for another 50 years. The letter from Commission Chair Dave Eggers says the county supports the Corps recommended plan for construction of a dune and periodic beach nourishment.
The plan calls for periodic beach nourishment as well as dune and berm features at the north and south ends of Treasure Island and Long Key.
Kelli Levy, Public Works director, said the current authorization is scheduled to end in 2025. She said the Corps had asked the county to include Long Key in its plans for reauthorization for 50 years.
She said staff has some concerns about the dune included in the recommended plans as it is more extensive than expected; however, she said it is important that the reauthorization move forward. She said if everything works out, construction would begin in 2028.
Commissioner Karen Seel asked if the county had enough money in its Tourist Development Fund, which helps pay for nourishment projects. Levy said it did, although the project would cost more than expected.
Seel also asked if easements were required. Levy said no. She said the county had enough easements for the proposed projects; however, if the preferred alternative was selected, it would require more easements as equipment would have to go onto private property to construct the dune system.
Levy talked about the problems with getting necessary easements to do nourishment at Sand Key. She said if the county didn’t get enough to add sand to the beach in 2024, it would be 2030 before they got another chance.
She said residents and visitors were used to the nice wide beaches along the county’s coast. She said if nourishment cycles didn’t continue as scheduled, erosion along the barrier islands would be likely in 10 years, not to mention the possibility of what could happen during a tropical storm or hurricane.
Commissioner Janet Long brought up the problem of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s use of flood maps from 2012 instead of more recent ones. She said the danger was if the agency took away restrictions based on old information creating what Long described as a “death trap.”
Levy said a work session for commissioners was scheduled on the matter on April 22.
Levy agreed that using data from 2012 would not create the best outcome, adding that FEMA would likely use the maps for another 10 years.
“The data has us concerned,” she said.
Suzette Porter is TBN’s Pinellas County editor. She can be reached at email@example.com.