Sarasota Key, Lido Key at odds over dredging sand

Lido Key, Florida -- A line has been draw in the water at Big Sarasota Pass between Lido Key and Siesta Key.

And it's all over sand.

One has a lot of it and the other not nearly enough. Some people living on Lido Key worry the erosion problem may soon endanger some structures.

"It's a beautiful, beautiful beach," says John Reutelshofer. He has been staying at the Sarasota Sands Resort on South Lido Key for more than 30 years. During that time John says he recalls seeing the sand come and go.

"Right now we have 15 yards to the water. Two years ago, even just last year, we had 20 to 25 yards," says John. But John says he has seen worst erosion than what is seen today. He says, "Before they pump sand in, it was up to the wall here…They need to pump sand back in"

The Army Corps of Engineers suggests dredging Big Pass between Lido Key and Siesta Key. The $22 million project would use 1.1 million cubic yards of sand from the shoal in Big Pass to re-nourish Lido Beach, build a 5 foot berm, add concrete groins on the north and south ends and then continue dredging every five years for 50 years. The Corps says Siesta Key would not be harmed.

"Dredging Big Pass? Yes," says John.

"There's no good reason to go after Big Pass for sand," says Maria Bankemper. She is part of Save Our Siesta Sands 2. The group says dredging Big Pass puts Siesta Beach at risk the beach picked as the country's number one beach in 2011 by Dr. Beach.

"Permanent damage to Siesta Key, its Island resorts, businesses this business," says Bankemper, owner of the Best Western Plus off Tamiami Trail and Stickney Point. Bankemper says 90% of her business is Siesta Key tourism.

"Big pass has never been dredged. There are other sources available to replenish Lido," says Bandkemper.

According to the Army Corp of Engineers, Project Manager Milan Mora, dredging offshore is not an option because the sand needed is too far out and not compatible. Mora says dredging New Pass on the north end of Lido Key provides about 300 cubic yards of sand. Not enough sand for Lido Key, plus that sand has already been allocated for other projects.

Lido residents remember the Corp dredging off Longboat Key north of Lido Key about 15 years ago. Don Shirey has been visiting Lido Key since 1983 and says the sand used off Longboat Key isn't the same white sand native to Lido Key.

"When they dredge it came back dark sand," says Don. He says only in recent years has seen some of the white sand he remembers from 30 years ago.

In opposition to the dredging SOSS2 produced a music video. The video uses Big Pass as the stage putting a piano out in the water. The pianist sings the Beatle's song "Let it Be."

Click here to view music video.

In response to the video City of Sarasota Engineer Alex Davis-Shaw says:

Text in the music video states that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the City of Sarasota "plan to dredge sand from Big Pass, risking Siesta Key beaches, businesses and homes". To be clear: No decision has been made at this time. The fact finding phase is still ongoing. The Army Corps of Engineers is reviewing previous research and is finalizing its own computer modeling to determine potential impacts, if any, on Siesta Key. A peer review also will be conducted. It is vitally important to withhold judgment until the process is completed and the final reports are issued. The City of Sarasota has a responsibility to provide accurate, factual information to the community. If the data in the final analysis shows that the proposed Lido Beach project would put Siesta Key beaches, homes or businesses at risk, neither the City of Sarasota staff nor the Army Corps of Engineers staff would support moving forward with it. We ask for your patience as we await the facts in the final reports, which we anticipate will be completed by mid-June."

City officials say they will hand the Corps' report to an independent engineer for review and his report is expected to be completed by the Fall.

John's message to Siesta Key: be fair. He says, "You have a beautiful beach, we would like one also."

Don says he's seen nature replenish the beach over the years and maybe nature should take care of this current erosion problem.

Don says, "Let it be and save your money."


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