ANNA MARIA ISLAND -- With weekend storms calling for high winds and surf, Manatee County officials are concerned about the possibility of beach erosion.
"What may occur is that these large waves will literally drag some of the shoreline sand to a near shore sandbar resting place, that later in the year will feed back onto the shoreline under the steady wave of spring and summer," said Charlie Hunsicker, county Parks and Natural Resources Department director. "Some of the erosion we may witness in the short term of weeks may return to the shore over the long term of months."
Thanks to the islandwide beach renourishment in 2012, Hunsicker said: "There are no particularly exposed locations that will be eroded any faster than others.
"The Gulf of Mexico shoreline now acts as one unit in response to the ever-present erosional forces," he said.
Recent intense storms have slowed completion of the new groins at Cortez Beach. Additional time has already been added to the contract to complete the $4.41 million project to replace three groins to correct sand erosion along Cortez Beach. Contractor Cayo LLC of Fort Worth, Texas, is asking for another 30-day extension because of weather-related delays, Hunsicker said.
"We are working through steps to approve that," Hunsicker said, adding the current completion date is March 1. "If we have storms every weekend or every week, it's going to be longer than that."
While the northernmost groin is complete and will do its job, the middle and lower groins are dismantled, Hunsicker said.
"The storms are catching us right in the middle of the construction and there is less protection afforded because of that," he said. "There will be more sand loss because there is no groin."
Groins are pierlike structures that jut out into the Gulf of Mexico to help hold beach sand in place.
The three groins being replaced are along Gulf Drive South at Sixth Street South, 10th Street South and just south of 13th Street South.
Even with the storms hitting the area, it is not unlike the repetitive tropical storms in summer.
"We have built a strong ribbon of sand to be sacrificial to protect businesses and homes and streets and other utilities that lie landward of that ribbon of sand," he said. "It's going to be a lot of high water standing in the streets because of wind-driven waves and tides."
Shoreline businesses, such as The Beach House restaurant, are thankful for the sacrificial sand. Caryn Hodge, marketing director for the Chiles Restaurant Group, said Friday they don't expect too much impact from the wind and waves over the weekend.
"It's not a hurricane, thank goodness, so we're not boarding anything up," Hodge said. "We're still serving and we did a lot of construction so that we have solid, sound structures."
The restaurant's protective flaps on its decks and event spaces can withstand up to 40-mph winds, she said, so the most they'll do is move chairs back and flip tables over. Sometimes, bad weather brings more people into beachside restaurants.
"People like to come in and look at the waves and see the beach," Hodge said.
Claire Aronson, Manatee County reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024. Janelle O'Dea, business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095.