MANATEE -- Manatee County’s massive beach renourishment project is one of only about a dozen still included in the coming year’s state budget.
The renourishment project set to begin in 2015 is designed to reinforce the shores along the entire length of Anna Maria Island.
County commissioners feared the project might be in jeopardy earlier this year after Gov. Rick Scott vowed to abolish state funding for beach renourishment.
Carol Whitmore, commission chairwoman, traveled to Tallahassee with several others from Manatee to lobby for the beach renourishment funding. She welcomed the news Wednesday.
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“It’s a baby step,” Whitmore said. “I am moving cautiously. I am hoping that the governor signs it. We got it through the process. Now it’s up to him.”
Charlie Hunsicker, natural resources director for the county, said he is optimistic that the Legislature will find funding for the project.
“We have all confidence in the wisdom of the Legislature to work to protect the longest state shoreline of all the states in the lower 48,” Hunsicker said. “This is the Legislature’s budget.”
The state set aside almost $940,000 for the Manatee County project. Statewide beach funding was $16.25 million for the top 12 beach nourishment projects on the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s priority list. The budget also provides for continuing the trust fund.
The state money would allow Manatee County to continue the studies and reports it needs to get the state and federal permits for beach renourishment in 2015.
Hunsicker said the county is well-positioned on three fronts: The project is federally funded and federally supported; Manatee County has a top three priority ranking from the state because of the ongoing critical nature of the forces of erosion here; and county, state and federal representatives have all advocated for the benefits of project.
County representatives had a clear message for the governor: Every $1 spent on beach renourishment returns $8 in terms of property taxes, hotel and motel stays, restaurant visits and employment.
While dredges won’t come to Anna Maria Island for another few years, the money included in the state budget in the coming year helps offset the cost of measuring and monitoring the changes to the beach. It also helps the county monitor the performance of artificial reefs to create habitats prior to the project.
There were more than 50 beaches on the list for renourishment, but the Legislature included funds for only 12 projects, including Manatee County’s. A project on Longboat Key was not funded.