Construction crews race against time to restore Sarasota County beaches

SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Construction crews are racing against the clock to restore a long stretch of beach on Siesta Key. They’ll be working 24 hours a day, seven days a week to finish the project before sea turtle nesting season.

Beach restoration

That stretch of beach has badly eroded during the past few years. In some areas, it has left behind steep cliffs of sand.

“This year, even just this winter, we’ve had some severe storms that have come through, some fronts that has really chewed this beach up,” project manager Paul Semenec said.

Not only is this bad for tourism, but it can be dangerous for the homes that are situated near the shoreline. The erosion can cause serious damage.

John Whitehead lives on Turtle Beach. “(This restoration) was needed because further down the beach it was getting close to the condos and the homes,” Whitehead said.

What the project will do

This $21 million dollar project will rebuild a 2.5-mile stretch of sand on the southern end of Siesta Key. It starts way out in the Gulf of Mexico where a dredge is sucking up sand from the seafloor.

The dredge then sails over to a half-mile from the beach. Crews are hooking it up to a pipe. The long pipe leads to a pump on the beach that spews out sand from the seafloor. Bulldozers shift the sand around, shaping it into a nice sloping shoreline.

The sand is dark after it’s removed from the seafloor, but officials say, in time, the sun will bleach it white.

Crews will be working 24 hours a day, seven days a week to have the project finished by May 1. That’s the start of sea turtle nesting season, and it must be fixed by then.

Limited window

It may be an inconvenience to some that officials are doing this work during a peak tourist season, but Semenec explained they have a very limited window to do this work. “We’re restricted to working on the beach when its not turtle season, so we have to do this work between November 1 and April 30,” he said.

The construction is loud but it draws a crowd. Numerous spectators stood and watched as these giant bulldozers repaired the beach.

It may be an eyesore, but Whitehead and other residents are happy to see it.

“It’s a necessary evil. It disrupts everything, but if you don’t do it then it gets worse,” he said.


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