Plovers apparently bid ‘adieu’ to Siesta
Just before the midpoint of July, it appeared snowy plovers no longer were making efforts to nest on Siesta Key this season, Kylie Wilson, coordinator of the Audubon Florida’s Bird Monitoring & Stewardship in the county, reported.
In a July 12 email blast to volunteers and the news media, Wilson wrote that it seemed that “all the plovers have migrated from Siesta to Lido.”
“We started the season with 6 nesting pairs,” she explained, “so 12 birds, on Siesta. One of those females was banded (Ms. Sanibel) and she has not been [re-sighted] here since just after [the passage of Tropical Storm] Cristobal [in early June]. So, excluding her and her mate, we now have 10 plovers consistently in the Sarasota area. This past week I sighted all 10 together on North Lido. I sighted no Snowy Plovers on Siesta …”
Wilson added that she would continue to survey conditions on Siesta; however, unless she found new nesting activity, she would not provide any further Siesta report in her weekly updates.
“The plovers have had a lot to overcome on Siesta in recent years,” she pointed out. “Most likely causes of nest failures are disturbances from dogs and predation from crows and ghost crabs. It is very sad that the birds are no longer successful at Siesta. When the birds have multiple failed seasons, they will go off in search of new territory where they may have better luck. Hopefully we will see them succeed at Lido and perhaps, with some more predation management and education, the nesting potential of Siesta can be restored.”
Although a county ordinance forbids dogs on Siesta’s public beaches, through the years, residents and visitors alike have flouted the regulation. Sheriff’s Office personnel and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission staff have documented such incidents.
Wilson pleaded last year for the public to be mindful of the fact that dogs scare snowy plovers into abandoning their nests; she renewed her campaign this year. Nonetheless, as she has indicated, some people refuse to abide by the county ordinance and continue to allow their dogs on the beach.
Lifeguard competitions another ‘victim’ of pandemic
The SNL recently learned that another installment of U.S. Lifesaving Association (USLA) competitions had been scheduled to take place on Siesta Public Beach in July. It was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sara Nealeigh, the media relations officer for the county’s Emergency Services Department, explained that the decision was a collaborative one, involving Sarasota County Lifeguard Operations, the U.S. Lifesaving Association and the Florida Beach Patrol Chiefs Association.
The USLA events afford an opportunity for camaraderie as well as participation in a variety of events that showcase the skills of lifeguards. Sarasota County team members have proven victors in more than a few events over the years.
The last time the USLA conducted its Southeast Region Lifeguard Championships on Siesta was in July 2016, the News Leader learned, based on online reports. The event also was held on the island in July 2011.
However, the event planned on Siesta this year was the Florida State Surf Lifesaving Championships. On June 23, the USLA Southeast Region posted an announcement on its Facebook page about the decision to cancel that competition, “in light of the recent resurgence of COVID-19 cases, deaths, and hospitalizations.” It added, “[W]e believe it would’ve been impossible to host a safe event.”
One person who commented on the post wrote, “It’s hard to run with your mask on. Stay safe, everyone!”
Mike Holderness, who owns Siesta Beach Resorts and Suites in Siesta Village, sent a June 23 email to County Administrator Jonathan Lewis, complaining about the cancellation. Holderness noted that county representatives had been working on the planning for the event for more than a year. His employees, he added, were counting on the reservations of participants to provide a boost amid the economic downturn brought on by the pandemic.
The USLA “is America’s nonprofit professional association of beach lifeguards and open water rescuers,” its website explains. “The USLA works to reduce the incidence of death and injury in the aquatic environment through public education, national lifeguard standards, training programs, promotion of high levels of lifeguard readiness, and other means,” the website adds.
Siesta Chamber encouraging display of ‘Mask Up’ poster
In a July 9 email blast, the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce distributed a copy of a “Mask Up” poster provided by Sarasota County staff “to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in any setting where social distancing is not possible.”
The email asked members to please print the poster and put it on display.
At the bottom, the poster says, “The Board of County Commissioners endorses recommendations from the Florida Surgeon General regarding face coverings in any setting where social distancing is not possible.”
Demolition set at former wastewater treatment plant
With the unanimous approval of its July 7 Consent Agenda of routine business items, the Sarasota County Commission authorized a $1,101,998.75 contract with Cross Construction Services Inc. of Lutz for the demolition of structures at the site of the former Siesta Key Water Reclamation Facility, located on Oakmont Place.
That total includes a 5% contingency, the contract notes, “for unanticipated work within the scope of the project,” and the county must authorize any such expenses.
The initiative was expected to get underway in late July, with substantial completion in November, “weather permitting,” a county staff memo said. Another 30 days would be accorded to Cross Construction for completion of “punch list” items, the contract points out.
Ethan Tyler Lillibridge, vice president of the company, signed the contract on June 25, the county document shows.
“Residents in the immediate area will be notified by postcard of upcoming demolition activities at least two weeks prior to the start of work,” a staff memo added. (Those were expected to be mailed on July 17, county staff reported later.) The public will be able to see updates by searching on the county website (www.scgov.net) for the regular Construction — One Week Look Ahead Report.
Additionally, the memo said, the undertaking is featured on the Projects In My Neighborhood webpage on the county website.
That July 7 staff memo explained, “With the decommissioning of [the water reclamation facility], formerly known as the Siesta Key Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant, and construction of the new Siesta Key Master Pump Station, the majority of the remaining infrastructure on the plant site is no longer needed and can be demolished.”
The project will include the removal and demolition of tanks, buildings and aboveground structures “that were associated with the wastewater treatment plant,” the memo added.
The Siesta Key Master Pump Station began sending wastewater to the mainland on April 10, 2018. At that time, county staff members reported that they hoped to advertise the demolition work for bid by early 2019.
The contract the commission approved on July 7 calls for minor improvements to the site, as well, the staff memo continued: construction of new fencing at the entrance to the facility, a new asphalt driveway and sodding of the area after the demolition has been completed.
The expense will be covered by utility rate payments, the memo said. The funding already has been allocated.
On Feb. 17, the memo noted, staff advertised for bids for the initiative. A Procurement Department document provided in the July 7 meeting packet says two other firms besides Cross Construction bid on the job. They were Environmental Holdings Group LLC of Tampa ($1,303,410.28) and Forristall Enterprises Inc. of Bradenton ($1,844,732).
A public meeting about the plans was conducted on Jan. 16 at St. Boniface Episcopal Church, the memo noted.
Sewer pipelines to be rehabilitated on north Siesta
A second item on the County Commission’s July 7 Consent Agenda also dealt with an upcoming project on the Key.
The board unanimously approved a $145,721.18 contract with Insituform Technologies LLC to “rehabilitate the gravity main in the Mangrove Point Basin by lining the existing vitrified clay pipe (VCP) using the Cured-in-Place (CIPP) methodology,” a staff memo said. The fee covers all the labor, equipment and materials, the memo added.
The trenchless process will be used for the work, the memo said. The initiative is set to begin in August, with completion anticipated in November, the memo pointed out.
In this case, according to the contract, company would be fined $100 per day for failing to reach the “substantial completion” of the initiative within 120 days of starting work. “Substantial completion” refers to finishing up work except for “punch list” items.
Insituform is to line approximately 1,968 linear feet of pipeline with a diameter of 8 inches, plus 1,850 linear feet of vitrified clay pipe of 10-inch diameter.
The work will satisfy the requirements of in-kind penalties imposed on the county in conjunction with a Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) Consent Order the County Commission agreed to last summer. That order dealt with measures designed to improve the operations of infrastructure associated with the county’s three water reclamation facilities, the memo also noted. The primary goal is to reduce the level of nutrients entering county waterways, as nitrogen, especially, is a source of food for the red tide algae.
After the Mangrove Point basin work has been completed, the memo noted, the life of the pipelines will be increased by more than 50 years.
The basin encompasses property on the east and west sides of Higel Avenue, starting just north of the Little Pond Lane intersection. It also includes a section of Boyd Park, which stands in the triangular intersection of Higel Avenue and Midnight Pass Road. The contract shows an expense of $2,644.50 for Insituform staff to ensure that traffic flow can proceed smoothly while the project is underway. That contract notes that Higel is a major route on Siesta Key.
Two smaller phases of the initiative will run along North Shell road and Cedar Park Circle.
“Residents and businesses in the immediate area will be notified by postcard of upcoming construction at least two weeks prior to the start of work,” the staff memo pointed out. “Further, the contractor is responsible for providing door hangers on affected streets 2-5 days prior to construction,” the memo continued. Construction updates will be provided via the Construction — One Week Look Ahead Report, which is posted on the county website, www.scgov.net.
The county has hired Insituform for past projects of this nature, including several on the Key. The company’s headquarters is in Missouri.
The company says on its website that it has more than 45 years of experience in rehabilitating pipelines “all around the world using its flagship cured-in-place pipe.”
The work restores structural integrity, reduces infiltration of rainwater, eliminates leaking joints, improves water quality and increases pipeline flow capacity, the website points out.
A-frame parking signs one step closer to approval
Yet a third item of business on the County Commission’s July 7 agenda that involved Siesta pertained to a proposed amendment to the county’s Unified Development Code (UDC). That document combines all the county’s land development and zoning regulations.
As county Zoning Administrator Donna Thompson explained it, the amendment would enable merchants to erect A-frame signs to direct visitors to available parking locations, either at businesses or those handled by valets. The modification would apply only to the Siesta Key Overlay District, which governs all the zoning issues on the island.
Regular readers may recall that, last year, architect Mark Smith, a long-time leader of the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce, proposed the private amendment, as allowed during the regular, annual cycle for County Commission consideration of changes to the UDC.
Smith sent Thompson a letter from the Chamber in August 2019. In his correspondence, he wrote, “Parking is at a premium on Siesta Key. Visitors to Siesta Key need help finding both parking spaces and valets. These [A-frame] signs would be an aid in navigation and a public service to help get drivers off the road and safely parked. There are plenty of ‘No Parking, Tow Away’ signs on Siesta Key. We need positive signs that help visitors.”
The staff memo provided to the commission in advance of the July 7 meeting said, “The signs will contain no advertising messages.” Reinforcing what Smith wrote in his August 2019 letter, the memo added, “The signs are to serve as wayfinding for visitors to readily know where parking is available. Staff supports this proposed amendment.”
During Thompson’s July 7 presentation, she noted that the UDC went into effect on Jan. 1, 2019. On Nov. 6, 2019, she continued, staff presented the commissioners a summary of proposed amendments, which included four that had been privately initiated.
No board vote was required on July 7, Thompson added. A second public hearing has been planned on Aug. 27, she said. Then, the commissioners will decide whether to approve the proposed A-frame sign amendment.
SKA raises alarm over statement about jetty on Lido Beach
Leaders of the Siesta Key Association (SKA) have told the SNL they became alarmed when they read part of a legal declaration that the president of the contractor handling the Lido Key Hurricane and Storm Damage Reduction Project recently wrote.
In a July 1 filling, in response to Save Our Siesta Sand 2’s motion for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) to prevent the dredging of Big Sarasota Pass, Benjamin G. Cottrell V noted several subcontracts he had awarded for the Lido project. Among them, he cited “$1.9 million to Earth Tech for jetty construction.”
On July 2, after reading a copy of that declaration, SKA President Catherine Luckner emailed Brad Johnson, assistant Sarasota County administrator, who oversees the Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources (PRNR) Department, among other responsibilities.
“There are no Permit documents that cover ‘Jetty construction,’” Luckner wrote.
A jetty, she pointed out — quoting a coastal engineering document — is defined thus: “On open seacoasts, a structure extending into a body of water, which is designed to prevent shoaling of a channel by littoral materials and to direct and confine the stream or tidal flow. Jetties are built at the mouths of rivers or tidal inlets to help deepen and stabilize a channel.”
Again, quoting coastal engineering materials, Luckner added that groins are “shore perpendicular structures, used to maintain updrift beaches or to restrict longshore sediment transport. By design, these structures are meant to capture sand transported by the longshore current; this depletes the sand supply to the beach area immediately down-drift of the structure.”
As county leaders have explained, on the west coast of Florida, sand drifts from north to south.
When the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) designed the Lido project, it originally planned on three groins on the southern part of the beach to try to hold new sand in place between subsequent renourishment efforts. One of those groins was planned very close to the county’s Ted Sperling Park, on the southernmost tip of Lido Key. Later, the USACE removed that structure from its proposal.
Luckner then pointed out in her July 2 email to Johnson that she had been in contact with Gregory W. Garis, administrator of the Beaches, Inlets & Ports Program of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). Garis had stressed to her in an email, she continued, that groins have been authorized for the Lido Key Hurricane and Storm Damage Reduction Project, not jettiess. She included a statement from Garis’ reply to her, which said, “Any significant changes from those activities would require a permit modification.”
Additionally, Luckner told Johnson in the email that the USACE had not submitted to FDEP any engineering documents for the construction of either groins or jetties on Lido. “The impact could be quite different to the [Ted Sperling] Park and [Big] Pass,” she added, if the USACE has decided to proceed with jetties instead of groins. “We could expect severe erosion,” including the lost off the Gulf beachfront in the park.
“We ask you to clarify with Mr. Garis what the Contractor is building,” Luckner continued.
“Would you let us know your findings as soon as possible?”
After apparently receiving no response from Johnson, Luckner sent another email on July 8. That went to him and Nicole Rissler, director of Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources.
“We are requesting a response from you and Brad Johnson regarding your outreach and results,” Luckner added in her July 8 email.
“Also,” Luckner wrote, “We’d appreciate hearing from our [county] Commissioners, Alan Maio and Christian Ziegler.”
With the implementation of new County Commission district lines last year, Siesta is split between District 2, whose seat Ziegler holds, and District 4, which is Maio’s district.
Luckner finally received a reply on the afternoon of July 8 from Shawn Yeager, senior manager of PRNR. He wrote, “We confirmed with both Cottrell Contracting and with the City of Sarasota this afternoon that no jetties are being installed as part of this project. Only the permitted groins are being installed. [City Engineer Alexandrea DavisShaw] may be better able to assist with additional questions about this project.”
The SKA remains engaged in litigation with the City of Sarasota over the Lido project, contending that the city should have applied for a Sarasota County permit to allow the USACE contractor to remove sand from Big Pass. SKA leaders have stressed for years that Big Pass never had been dredged.
Rocks relocated, at last, on shoreline at Beach Access 1
Regular readers will recall that controversy ensued early this year over the efforts of the owners of a home near Beach Access 1 — on North Shell Road — to keep the public off their property.
Greg and Michelle Olson of 3935 N. Shell Road had erected a rope-and-post barrier that county staff advised them was in violation of county regulations.
In investigating that situation, county Environmental Protection Division staff members also found rocks parallel to the shoreline, which — staff acknowledged — were installed by a previous owner of the property.
During a staff review of historic aerial images,” a county letter to the Olsons continued, “it also became clear that shore-perpendicular rock/concrete has been present at this location since at least 1974 in the vicinity of both your northern and southern property boundaries.”
In response to the staff concerns, the Olsons agreed to apply for a county permit to move the rocks landward of the county’s Barrier Island Pass Twenty Year Hazard Line (PHL).
In late June, the News Leader learned from county Planning and Development Services Department staff that the rocks finally had been relocated.
The After-the-Fact Minor Work Permit was issued to the Olsons on April 13 and then modified on April 16, according to a copy of the document the News Leader received after making a public records request.
That permit explained that the Olsons’ property on Big Pass “has not been historically hardened by a rock revetment. There are scattered rocks running perpendicular to the shore along the northern property boundary near the Shell Road right-of-way that have been present since at least the 1970s. There is also a scattering of rocks offshore and closer to the southern property boundary that have historically been at this location since at least the 1970s. The footprint of the scattered rocks and the shore-perpendicular configuration of rocks … are not very well consolidated and no longer appear to serve as a functional shoreline protection structure or groin. Many are buried in the sand. These rocks are not to be enhanced or moved elsewhere on the beach as part of this permit.”
The document added, “The previous owner installed rock along the shoreline sometime between 2011 and 2013. This after- the-fact permit addresses compliance issues related to county regulations. Several rocks will require relocation landward of the PHL to address compliance with the [county’s] Coastal Setback Code, while the issuance of this after-the-fact Minor Work Permit addresses compliance with the WNCA [Water and Navigation Control Authority] Code for authorization of a shoreline protection structure within the WNCA jurisdictional area. A specific stipulation has been included which requires the existing seagrapes to be protected and preserved.
Furthermore, the Sarasota County Environmental Protection Division shall require dune vegetation plantings at the toe of the rock revetment as a shoreline softening mitigation measure.”
The permit noted that Greg Olson contacted staff on April 15 “with concerns that the initial mitigation requirements contained in the permit … would not be feasible or successful due to changed conditions at the beach.” As a result, the document continued, “Staff met with Mr. Olson on April 15, 2020 to review the current site conditions.”
The permit added that staff observed that the wrack line “and wave run-up have recently been reaching the toe of the rock. Several desirable native dune plants are present at the top of the rock revetment.”
Thus, the document continued, “Staff agreed to modify the issued permit to remove the requirements to plant at the toe of the rock revetment and encourage the installation of native vegetation at the top of the revetment in areas that remain bare following the relocation of the rock landward of the [Pass Hazard Line].
As modified, the permit also said, “The Sarasota County Comprehensive Plan also recognizes the importance of removing all nuisance/invasive species as they are a continual threat to the health of Sarasota County’s native habitats and shoreline areas. These fast-growing species grow densely and crowd or shade out desirable native plants that are important for long-term shoreline management. Further, the Sarasota County Invasive Plant Species Code (Sarasota County Code, Chapter 54, Article XIX) prohibits the importation, transportation, sale, propagation, and planting of six nuisance/invasive plant species.
“Therefore, if any nuisance/invasive species … are located within 30 feet of the shoreline, they are required to be removed pursuant to a stipulation within this permit.
“With adherence to the conditions and stipulations contained herein, no long-term adverse ecological impacts are anticipated,” the permit said.
Upon completion of the relocation of the rocks, the permit noted, the revetment would be limited to a maximum elevation of 4 feet NAVD [an abbreviation that pertains to Federal Emergency Management Agency base elevations in regard to flooding] and will remain within the landward footprint of the existing rock revetment on the [Olsons’] property. The overall length of the revetment structure is approximately 110 feet, while the width varies (between 4 ft. and 9 ft. wide).”
Finally, the permit required the Olsons to use “[c]lean, local, quarry rock … in construction of the rock revetment,” and it said they would have to maintain the revetment in good condition “so as to create no hazard or nuisance to surrounding properties or the public at large.”
Howard Berna, who manages of the Environmental Permitting Division and serves as administrator of the WNCA ordinance, signed the permit.
Fire Department comes to rescue of grounded sailboat
Just before 8:30 p.m. on Monday, July 6, the Sarasota County Fire Department received a call about a sailboat that had gone aground on the sandbar in Big Sarasota Pass.
The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office’s Air-1 helicopter crew kept an eye on the vessel as firefighters set out by boat to assist the stranded sailors. The Air-1 crew noted that the couple had set off a flare, indicting the vessel was in distress.
In releasing a copy of the Air-1 video to the public, the Sheriff’s Office reported that the sailboat “was being battered by the waves” when Fire Boat 3 approached it.
The Fire Department noted in its report that its boat maneuvered as close to the sailboat as possible, and then two firefighters set out on foot across the sandbar to help the man and woman leave the sailboat and make their way to the Fire Department boat.
“The water is too shallow,” a person on Fire Boat 3 reported, as heard in the Air-1 video, explaining why the rescue vessel could not move in closer to the sailboat.
Air-1 recorded video as the firefighters assisted a man, a woman and two dogs. All made it safely aboard the Fire Department vessel, as that crew reported to Air-1.
After the rescue, the couple and their pets were transported to Marina Jack in downtown Sarasota, the Fire Department report noted. There, the couple met with Sea Tow personnel to discuss options about getting their sailboat off the sandbar, the report added.
Firefighters estimated the length of the sailboat at 20 to 25 feet. It was visible about half-a-mile offshore of Beach Access 2 on Siesta Key, the report said.
To watch the rescue, go to this link:
Cosentino agrees to pay Maddens’ Circuit Court costs
Twelfth Judicial Circuit Court Judge McHugh had scheduled a hearing on June 15 on a motion a Siesta couple had filed, seeking payment of their costs in the litigation Mike Cosentino launched against Sarasota County in June 2016.
Cosentino lost the last part of that case early this year; he has filed an appeal.
Dennis and Wendy Madden were allowed to intervene in the Circuit Court case because they were among three sets of property owners who petitioned the County Commission for the vacation of the 373-foot-long segment of North Beach Road in 2016, which the board approved.
In early May, their attorney, M. Lewis Hall III of the Williams Parker firm in Sarasota, provided the court a detailed accounting of the Maddens’ expenses, dating from August 2016. They added up to $8,072.85.
Hall noted in his motion, “The trial court has broad discretion to award costs beyond those identified in the Uniform Guidelines upon a showing the costs were reasonably necessary to prosecute or defend the case.”
McHugh wrote in her June 15 Agreed Final Judgment for Costs, “The Parties announced in open Court and on the record an agreement as to the Costs to be assessed against John Michael Cosentino and [Reopen Beach Road].”
She first reiterated that the Maddens were the prevailing party in the litigation. Then she pointed out that they would receive $4,750 from Cosentino.
“Upon payment of this Cost Judgment,” McHugh added, the Maddens “shall file a Satisfaction of Judgment and the Clerk of Court is directed to close the file.”