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Here's where Sunset Beach will close for 'emergency' dune restoration

City officials will be bringing in truckloads of sand to replace the damage done by Hurricane Idalia.

TREASURE ISLAND, Fla. — A stretch of Sunset Beach is set to close starting Wednesday for what city officials are calling the "emergency" restoration of beach dunes.

Hurricane Idalia's storm surge hit Treasure Island particularly hard when it brushed the Gulf coastline before making landfall in late August. Visitors were asked not to visit Sunset Beach after the storm to allow residents and business owners to make their way back for cleanup efforts.

"So unfortunately, as we were starting to open those areas, we're now going to be closing them back down to ensure [the] safety of beachgoers," said Stacy Boyles, the city's public works director.

Officials plan to close the beach south of Caddy's Treasure Island, located at 9000 W. Gulf Boulevard, including all beach parking lots, the city said. 

No one will be allowed to get over to the beach during construction. It's anticipated beach dune reconstruction will take at least a month.

"So it's just the main safety precaution," city spokesperson Jason Beisel said. "So people can be safe enough to get the work done. And so it can make us get the work done quicker."

Pinellas County officials approved the funding for the project on Tuesday night. Some $6 million will be spent on dune restoration. 

"[We are] bringing in about 40,000 cubic yards of sand to this area," Beisel said.

Treasure Island is the first location for work to be completed because it has the worst damage from Idalia, county officials say. 

"We've had slow erosion of these decades-old dune systems now every time a storm comes through, but Idalia really took them all out. And those are very important for our storm protection for our properties," Boyles said. "So our timeline is very quickly. We're looking to get started by the end of this week, the contractor will be mobilizing equipment as soon as tomorrow here in Sunset Beach."

The city says it's continuing to work with some homeowners in the area to get temporary construction easements — and they're asked to call the building department at 727-547-4575 x 230 to get them signed. The department is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday at City Hall, located at 120 108th Avenue.

As of Wednesday, the city of Treasure Island has 40 percent of the needed easements signed for dune restoration. City officials say if some easements are not obtained, crews will do their best to work around the areas not granting access for work to be completed.

The city highlighted this project is separate from beach renourishment.

"This is a very different easement than what the Corps has requested for beach renourishment," Boyles said. "This is not a perpetual public easement. This is a three-year temporary construction easement that's allowing the Corps to come in and do the new dune reconstruction and to come back and after that and plant."

The sand brought in will come from one or more of the state's three approved sand mines within 100 miles of Treasure Island. The sand has been certified to be compatible with Sunset Beach's sand. 

On Wednesday and Thursday, heavy machinery is being brought onto the beach. On Friday, work will begin on the dunes. 

Elsewhere along the shoreline in Pinellas County, including Sand Key and Long Key, beach renourishment projects to repair damage after Hurricane Idalia are on pause because beachfront homeowners have not signed easements. The Army Corps of Engineers is tasked with these projects and has said no sand will be distributed to beaches without 100% compliance.

Some people have hesitated to sign because of concerns with the easements, which are said to be perpetual.

Malique Rankin is a general assignment reporter with 10 Tampa Bay. You can email her story ideas at mrankin@10tampabay.com and follow her Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages.

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