Three Groins in a Fountain

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By Peter van Roekens

You probably remember the film and lyrics of Three Coins in the Fountain each one seeking happiness. According to the Army Core of Engineers (COE) three groins are required on South Lido to retain the sand that the COE plans to place on Lido Beach. These groins will slow the erosion of the new sand and may add an extra two to three years. Is this happiness and how likely is the fountain of Big Pass to bless any of them?

There is a vast quantity of water that flows in and out of Sarasota Bay via Big Pass twice each day. It is so strong that many floating aids to navigation and even deeply drilled fixed aids to navigation get washed away repeatedly. This force of tidal currents scours the bottom and washes the sand in and out of the channel. One day one may find a lump of sand in the channel limiting the vessels that can safely transit. The next day it can be gone. It is well known in the re-nourishing business that natural beaches erode much more slowly than re-nourished beaches. The major reason is that natural beaches have a much gentler slope which tends to make them self re-nourishing.

And then you add groins or jetties. The inevitable result is that the downdrift beach loses sand while the updrift beach

Aerial view of North Jetty Park, Venice Beach (photo credit B. Paul Petterson)
Aerial view of North Jetty Park, Venice Beach (photo credit B. Paul Petterson)

retains sand.   Venice Inlet is a good example of this. Their jetty has eroded the beach and requires continual maintenance to retain a semblance of a reasonable beach.   The COE currently plans to place three groins on South Lido Key. The last groin is on the beach of the County South Lido Park. This park is rated #17 of 85 “must see” attractions in Sarasota. It has a wild natural beauty as well as a picnic area and other amenities. If those groins are installed they will forever change this park. The beach will erode as every other beach in Florida downdrift of a groin or jetty has done. And these groins are gigantic boulders that cannot be removed like parking meters. Once they are in, they are there to stay. In the first significant storm the wave action will flush out the sand that covers them. They will be left standing alone, naked sentinels of this futile effort to retain the Lido Beach.

And it is not as if there are no other ways to place sand on those very few places on Lido Beach that need re-nourishing. This can be done much more quickly and at a fraction of the cost of the current COE plan. Let us hope that the COE, like Paul on the road to Damascus, has seen the light and in their revised plan will propose a simpler and less expensive approach without the groins.

As to Big Pass, “Let it be”. Check out the website for more details and to see and hear the voice of reason for Big Pass.

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