MANATEE -- The dredging company in charge of beach renourishment at Anna Maria Island may pull up stakes and move elsewhere at the end of February, leaving the Coquina Beach area still in need of sand, a Manatee County official said Tuesday.
The federally funded renourishment project, which began near 78th Street at Holmes Beach and is slated to fortify 4.7 miles of beach south to Bradenton Beach, will continue through February, said Charlie Hunsicker, Manatee County director of parks and natural resources.
Whether the dredging company remains for renourishment needed for beaches south of that point, including Coquina Beach, is unknown, he said.
"We are still negotiating with the company," Hunsicker said Tuesday. "Once they're finished with the federal project, they're free to go."
Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co. of Oak Brook, Ill., did not respond to phone inquiries.
County and state officials hoped to retain Great Lakes Dredge & Dock services after it finished Bradenton Beach for a related repair along a 2-mile section of Coquina Beach.
Negotiations are continuing, Hunsicker said.
"The timing and price are still on the table," he said. "We're working against the possibility they calculate they are unable to stay, and need to move to another location. It's still very much in negotiation."
The negotiations are scheduled for review by the Manatee County Commission at its Tuesday meeting, Hunsicker said.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers oversees the federally funded portion of beach renourishment to Bradenton Beach, but is not involved in the Coquina Beach work, said Sirisha Rayaprolu, project manager for the Corps.
"Unfortunately, I have no idea what the company's plans are because it's all preliminary information we're hearing as well," said Rayaprolu.
"What I'm responsible for is finishing up the federal beach project. Once we let go, we're not privy to what they have under the pipes."
Bradenton Beach Mayor Bill Shearon said he is concerned his city will be left hanging on the complex renourishment project.
"My concern is, if they pull out for any reason, are they going to come back?" he said.
Beach renourishment entails pumping sand from north of Anna Maria Island onto eroded Manatee County beaches. When renourishment is complete, beaches will be widened by 125 to 150 feet on the island.
For six months or so following renourishment, the sand is allowed to reposition itself underwater through natural wave action.
The locally financed portion of beach renourishment is paid for by hotel occupancy taxes.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.