Sarasota declares local state of emergency over significant beach erosion

A local state of emergency was declared Wednesday by the City of Sarasota for significant erosion on Lido Beach.

The decision was made, city officials said, after a walking inspection along the beach by City Manager Tom Barwin and an official from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Barwin is authorized to declare a state of emergency with the approval of one city commissioner.

Sarasota Mayor Liz Alpert, the district 2 city commissioner, agrees and supports the declaration, calling it "necessary."

The designation applies to the most threatened portions of Lido Beach, officials said.

On the southern half of the beach, markers R-37 south to R-442 are included. Along the northern half, markers R-31 to R-33 are included.

“It’s getting worse by the hour,” Barwin said in a news release. “With this relentless weather system related to Subtropical Storm Alberto, the surf continues to pound and erode the beach. It’s a dire situation. In some parts, the beach is nonexistent leaving private property, wildlife nesting areas and infrastructure exposed and in jeopardy."

By declaring a local state of emergency for the beach, the city says it seeks to qualify for any regulatory and financial assistance that may be available.

Also, the FDEP, officials say, will work directly with Lido Beach property owners to obtain permits needed to place sandbags and limited quantities of sand on the beach.

A property owner would be eligible to place up to 300 cubic yards of beach-quality bagged sand to protect private property. Barwin said he plans to petition Tallahassee to double that amount.

“While 300 cubic yards is a start, much more is needed,” he said. “During our walking inspection today, the sheer force of the wave action was physically moving FDEP-approved sandbags that were recently put there.”

Lido Beach property owners interested in obtaining a permit for sandbags should contact Kelly Cramer, FDEP Environmental Specialist II, via email at Kelly.Cramer@dep.state.fl.us

“The next step is to continue to collaborate with our residents and partners at the county, state and federal levels to restore and protect our beautiful, protective shoreline on Florida’s west coast,” said Barwin.

The city says it is pursuing two tracks to re-nourish the beach. For the short term plan, the city has an approved permit and expects to replace sand lost during Hurricane Irma by fall 2018. For the long term plan, the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection initially approved a permit for a 50-year program with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to re-nourish the beach on a regular basis, perhaps every five years.