MANATEE -- A complex, two-part beach renourishment project has ended ahead of schedule at Anna Maria Island, and the contractor is winding down operations, officials said Tuesday.
The "California" barge finished dredging late Sunday, and has been towed to Egmont Key where it will go to another job, said Charlie Hunsicker, Manatee County director of parks and natural resources.
Asked if he is celebrating the conclusion of beach renourishment after months of construction, Hunsicker replied: "I, like many islanders and Manatee residents, now look forward to spending some great weekends enjoying the beauty of the Gulf of Mexico from the sandy shores of Anna Maria Island."
Approximately 265,000 cubic yards of sand was pumped onto eroded beaches from Bradenton Beach south to Longboat Pass, according to coastal engineer Michelle Pfeiffer.
"With that volume, the estimated cost of the project is about $5.5 million," she wrote in an update to county officials.
Contractor Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co. of Oak Brook, Ill., is demobilizing its equipment, said Pfeiffer.
"The contractor will begin trucking materials/equipment
offsite (Wednesday), which is estimated to take about 10 days," wrote Pfeiffer.
About 500 feet of back beach remains fenced off north of the Coquina Beach Park entrance but the water side was open to beachgoers along the length of the project area, she said.
The contractor plans to open the rest of the beach near the end of the week, Pfeiffer said.
At Coquina Beach, tractors could still be seen by the shore Tuesday afternoon.
Deep tire tracks on the sand led to the closed-off area where work wasn't exactly complete.
Despite that, Richard Whittington thought the beach looked "lovely." The 74-year-old visitor had just walked from Bradenton Beach to a large stretch of Coquina Beach.
"I loved it," he said. "I should do that every day I'm here."
Whittington said the beach looked clean so far. He even picked up some shells for his collection.
Nearby, William Davis and his wife, Carol, said they thought the renourishment project was highly successful.
"I think it enhances the area," said Davis, who said he read about the project in the newspapers.
It was the couple's first visit to the Anna Maria after their daughter recommended the Illinois couple vacation here.
"The walking is very nice for bicycles, too," Davis added. "A lot of beaches don't do that."
Since December, the California barge pumped more than 1.3 million cubic yards of sand from a borrow area north of the island along miles of eroded Gulf shoreline.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers oversaw the first part of the $13 million project, which began at 78th Street at Holmes Beach and continued through Bradenton Beach.
On Valentine's Day, work continued from Fifth Street South in Bradenton Beach to Longboat Pass under the jurisdiction of county and state officials. That cost was paid for locally with tourist bed taxes and some state and federal monies.