Pinellas beach renourishment projects secure funding
TREASURE ISLAND - Two beaches seriously eroded during Tropical Storm Debby last year are set to be restored to their former glory by this fall. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has approved more than $8 million in emergency funds to renourish the beach on the southern side of Treasure Island that was reduced to a sliver in some spots following the summer storm. Pinellas County is looking to split the remaining $4 million needed for the project with the state. From a separate pool of state funds, Honeymoon Island State Park has also received $5 million to renourish its wild beachfront. That project was approved in the 2012 state legislative session to fill about 150,000 cubic yards of sand and install several T-groin structures to stabilize the waterfront, Pinellas County Coastal Manager Andy Squires said.“They need some sand pretty badly,” Squires said. Left out of the renourishment plans are Upham and Pass-a-Grille beaches. Pass-a-Grille also suffered a major loss of beachfront from Debby along its southernmost tip, where the high tide nearly reaches the dunes at times. The Army Corps assesses the cost of renourishment projects against the damage to the beach and surrounding community, Squires said. Pass-a-Grille’s damage didn’t pass that test, he said. The county could consider footing the $8-million bill to renourish Pass-a-Grille and Upham without federal aid, but that would be up to the County Commission, Squires said. “We’ll look at that beach and see how that’s doing this spring,” he said. This year, the Army Corps approved 12 of 16 requested renourishment projects, at a total cost of $147 million, across the state in the aftermath of Debby and Hurricane Sandy, which damaged several east coast beaches. Local governments try to mitigate the impacts of chronic and storm-induced erosion by dredging sand from offshore areas and pumping it back onto the beach, an expensive process called beach renourishment. The last renourishment of Sunshine and Upham beaches in 2010 cost $5.2 million, according to Squires. The most eroded beach in Treasure Island, Sunset Beach, must be rebuilt once every four years, on average, experts say. The renourishment of Sunshine and Sunset beaches could begin in September, Treasure Island Mayor Robert Minning said. “We are very happy campers,” he said. A dispute between the state and a restaurant owner over who owns a portion of the sand on the north end of Sunset Beach will not affect the scope of the renourishment plans. Caddy’s on the Beach owner Tony Amico has said the entire beach in front of his restaurant belongs to him, but the state Department of Environmental Protection insists part of it is state-owned. Amico filed a lawsuit last year claiming that his disputed ownership of the beachfront caused the sale of his business to fall through. The beach renourishment permit includes the land in front of Caddy’s, Department of Environmental Protection press secretary Patrick Gillespie said.