MANATEE -- After Thanksgiving Day, Anna Maria Island beachgoers will start to see front-end loaders, bulldozers and a dredge barge arrive in preparation for an almost $13 million beach renourishment project.
In early December, work is scheduled to begin along the central section of the island's beaches. Slated to start near 78th Street in Holmes Beach, renourishment will continue south 4.7 miles almost to Bridge Street in Bradenton Beach, said Charlie Hunsicker, Manatee County's director of parks and natural resources.
The project is financed with federal, state and county monies, with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers serving as the contracting agent.
The amount of sand to be pumped ashore from December to February to
repair damaged beaches is expected to total 1 million cubic yards, said Corps spokeswoman Susan Jackson. The contract for the work was awarded to Great Lakes Dredge & Dock. The sand will come from an offshore borrow area at the northern end of Anna Maria Island.
Erosion on the beaches is especially severe during storms and hurricanes, but the daily pounding of water on land takes a toll, too, Hunsicker said.
"Part of it is the inevitable and constant erosion of waves on the beach, normal wave action," he said. "We lose about 10-15 feet of beach width a year.
"When that project is completed, we will pick up from there with a county and state project extending south to Longboat Pass," said Hunsicker.
The related $3 million Coquina Beach repair calls for pumping about 260,000 cubic yards of sand from the sea floor onto a two-mile section of beach.
Good weather permitting, all that work is expected to be complete by April 1, Hunsicker said.
Later in the year, work will start there on three dilapidated groins to be removed and replaced with new ones, Hunsicker said. Groins are man-made structures designed to trap sand as it moves down the beach.
Once the renourishment projects are complete, the beaches are expected to be wider by 125 to 150 feet on the island, which overlooks the Gulf of Mexico on Manatee County's far western edge.
The projects are designed to allow the sand to "reposition" itself underwater through natural wave action for six months or so following renourishment.
"We heap all sand on the dry beach area, and let Mother Nature's waves move the excess below the waterline on her own so we are not working in deeper water with our equipment," Hunsicker said.
Lovely beaches are important to the local economy, Holmes Beach Mayor Carmel Monti noted.
"We're looking forward to it," he said. "Anything to enhance our beaches and the experience for tourists and visitors is a plus, since our beaches are so important.
"We really appreciate the help we're getting from the TDC (Tourist Development Council) and the county on that," he added.
Beach renourishment funds come locally from bed taxes charged to visitors.
"We contribute a tremendous amount of tax dollars to Manatee County for these services," said Monti.
Another beach renourishment project is in the wings farther south for Longboat Key, according to Juan Florensa, public works director for the Town of Longboat Key.
Manatee County is leading a permitting effort to win state and federal permits to dredge out clogged portions of Longboat Pass, on the key's northern tip, he said.
Once the permits are granted, the town can pay for the dredging and apply the sand along eroded "hot spots" of its beaches, said Florensa.
An agreement with a company called Port Dolphin, which wants to build a natural gas pipeline just north of the tip of Anna Maria Island, would allow Longboat Key to remove some of the sand on the bottom of the Gulf before the pipeline goes in, Florensa said.
Port Dolphin officials have just been granted their major permits, but they remain in negotiations with the commercial side of the business, spokesman Harry Costello said Friday.
When contemplating all the complexities and expense of beach renourishment, Glenn Compton, director of local environmental group Manasota-88, wondered why people don't embrace a much simpler solution.
"If the buildings weren't there, you wouldn't need beach renourishment," he said. "It's an indicator structures have been built too close to the waterline."
His view of renourishment was that it is "a necessary evil." "It's not going to get any easier or cheaper in the future," said Compton. "Those who live near the coast should pay the majority of the cost associated with it."
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.