BRADENTON - The solution could be to move the sand.
Charlie Hunsicker, the director of Manatee County's Natural Resources Department, told county commissioners Tuesday that Port Dolphin LLC, the natural gas pipeline company, is in serious talks to relocate sand as part of the company's plan to build a natural gas pipeline into Port Manatee.
In a press release, Hunsicker said Port Dolphin would construct a pipeline connecting Port Manatee to a tanker docking location in the Gulf of Mexico, 30 miles west of Manatee County. The line would traverse three patches of submerged white sand that would be captured to renourish beaches in the town of Longboat Key, Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach.
"Working with Port Dolphin, we've found a solution to bring additional natural gas to the southwest coast of Florida through Port Manatee, at the same time protecting our white beach sand and the living resources in the Gulf of Mexico," Hunsicker said. "This solution will also create local jobs and an immediate economic stimulus to Port Manatee and Port-related businesses."
Manatee County and Longboat Key will coordinate with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to begin sand extraction along the pipeline route by 2011, and placement of sand on Anna Maria and Longboat Key beaches three years ahead of schedule.
Though specifics have not yet been reached, Port Dolphin is expected to share in the cost for studies, permits and construction of the renourishment project. Hunsicker is working to present a formal agreement to Manatee County Board of County Commissioners on July 28.
The agreement to bend bend the pipeline's route north to bypass the northern tip of Anna Maria Island means that instead of coming within a few hundred yards of Bean Point, the pipeline now will be about two miles north of the Island.
Port Dolphin and Florida DEP officials have given a conceptual approval for the proposed solution. DEP has also given conceptual support to prioritize both the permitting and state funding to preserve sand resources.