By Roger Drouin
Sarasota County is on track to start construction in mid-January of the long-planned South Siesta Renourishment project.
The county has secured all final permits, including a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers and approval by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “The county now has all permits in hand to move forward with construction of the project,” county spokesman Jason Bartolone told Siesta Sand.
The final federal permit was issued following a lengthy delay due to unanticipated issues regarding a listed species. The potential stopover of the Rufa Red Knot during migration delayed the permitting process, and since spring the county had also been working to put specific safeguards in place to protect both the Red Knot and Loggerhead sea turtles.
In March, county officials let residents know the scheduled start date for the project had been delayed, because of the potential presence of the Red Knot, a threatened species protected by the Endangered Species Act in 2014.
“The Red Knot is not very common in our area but it can potentially use our gulf shoreline during its trip,” Wreford told Siesta Sand in July.
With final permits in hand, county officials are pushing for construction this winter. The construction bid was advertised in October, with bid opening scheduled for Nov. 10. The county won’t know final expected project costs until the proposals are received, county spokesman Jason Bartolone told Siesta Sand at the end of October.
The next steps include: selecting a construction firm and negotiating a contract; presenting a construction contract and final funding plan to the County Commission Dec. 9; and to begin sand placement in January 2016 and complete construction by April 30, 2016 — prior to sea turtle nesting season.
In June, the South Siesta project got a needed financial boost when the legislature approved a $2.75 million state award for the project. The county, which originally requested $7 million in state funding, is still seeking additional state funding to defray costs.
The project will add 800,000 cubic yards of sand to two miles of beach. It will buffer the eroded shoreline that was initially nourished with a million cubic yards of sand in 2007.
The proposed renourishment is similar to the initial project in terms of scope —albeit at about three-quarters the amount of the sand.The most recent project cost estimate was close to $22 million.