BRADENTON -- Manatee County is set to go in their beach renourishment program, and with matching federal and state funds getting closer to the table, officials say it is a deal they can't refuse. But these bargain projects still cry out for some serious funding, and commissioners are still crying broke.
Manatee County started its beach management plan in 1989 when the county contracted Coastal Planning and Engineering, Inc. (CPE) to address beach erosion issues. CPE is a Florida based engineering firm that has engineered more beach re-nourishment projects than any other firm in the nation. Some of the professional services they provide include: Engineering and Modeling, Coastal Geology, Coastal Services and Biological Sciences.
Charlie Hunsicker, Director of Manatee County Department of Natural Resources orchestrated a BOCC Workshop presentation that took County Commissioners and staff on a start to finish beach nourishment course. Three of CPE's experts, Rick Spadoni, Thomas Pierro and Lauren Floyd, walked officials through the past, present and future beach nourishment projects that the county has participated in over the last 24 years.
Beach erosion, is how the coastal waters deplete the land on and off shore, and beach nourishment is replacing the shore material needed to reconstruct the loss due to erosion. More than 99 percent of all coastal shoreline in the U.S. never receives any assisted man-made nourishment. Consequently, the oceans, seas and gulfs have their way with the surrounding coastline.
Hunsicker said, "Sometimes a hurricane or even a severe storm can change the coastline overnight." These circumstances are most critical to hotels, homes or businesses that locate closer to shore. These properties are significant to the overall economic future of the county, and if left without protection (continual reconstruction of barrier reefs to sand dunes), beach properties values would surely plummet.
But the cost to protect these reefs beaches and dunes have not been without a big price tag and fortunately the state and federal governments has picked up a large part of the cost. What is often forgotten is that federal and state funds are also taxpayer money, and the matching funds that so many of these projects are built with can still run into many millions of dollars.
The three future projects reviewed buy the Hunsicker team total $30.9 million. $15.7 million will come from federal funds, $6.2 million from state and $9 million from county funds. This does not include the 600 ft., $2.9 million pier option.
With dollars tightening in all areas of government, partnerships like the Port Dolphin Beneficial Use Beach Nourishment Project, are sure to play a larger role in how local governments continue to protect their coastline. A sand for beach swap that involves $5 million reimbursement for beach nourishment if the Port Dolphin natural gas pipeline is approved, could set an example of how the county might continue future projects when federal and state funds become scarce.
Hunsicker said he just heard that the proposed projects looking to receive the $15 million in federal funds, has moved up on the federal government's priority list. "It's not written in stone, but getting closer," he said. He added that the recent visit from Congressmen Schuster and Buchanan certainly helped. "They got to see the significance of these projects."
In the weeks to come, the county will pick and choose which projects get priority. Hunsicker said, "It helps to get started soon. That shows we have skin in the game."
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