ENGLEWOOD — Manasota Key’s restored Gulf of Mexico beaches fared well after Hurricane Elsa swiped the Gulf coastline earlier this month.
Coastal Engineering Consultants, which headed the 2019-20 renourishment project, is expected to quantify what officials from Charlotte and Sarasota counties suspect. The consultants will present reports to both counties detailing impacts of the storm: a Category 1 hurricane that grazed Southwest Florida as at moved north through the Gulf June 6-7.
Charlotte County spent more than $21 million on the project, with Sarasota kicking in another $8 million to help shore up erosion on Manasota Key to Blind Pass Beach. The main part of the project wrapped up May 1, 2020.
Earlier this year, Manasota Key saw some loss of dry beach due to the shifting sands, but no longer were structures being compromised.
Officials anticipated the adjustment.
Sandy beaches can be much like icebergs with much of their base underwater and out of sight. Unlike the time before the beach renourishment, the sand now lays just offshore. Also, the sand slipping off the beach has filled an offshore trough, which runs parallel to the beach and helps stabilize the shoreline.
Hurricane Elsa was a good test for the endurance and value of beach restoration.
In Charlotte County, photographs taken before and after the storm show only slight changes at Englewood Beach and the north end of Stump Pass State Beach State Park on the southern end of Manasota Key.
A big part of that is due to the direction of the storm as it went by.
“We dodged another one,” said Damian Ochab, president of the South Manasota/Sandpiper Key Association. The association is made up of home and other property owners south of the Sarasota-Charlotte county line on Manasota Key.
“The sand held because the winds were primarily out of the east,” Ochab said. “Wave action was minimized.”
La Coquina condo owners should be particularly relieved since they suffered significant damage due to erosion before the beach project.
Sarasota County staff reported on their observations after the storm. Elsa had intensified into a Category 1 hurricane with recorded gusts of 54 mph when it passed offshore from Sarasota County.
Overall, Sarasota, like Charlotte County, fared very well, considering the damage hurricanes and other tropical storms caused in the past.
“Some ‘at risk’ Gulf-front homes on Manasota Key in the 7100 block experienced the effects of wave action and the loss of (sand bags), but no structural damage or undermining of foundations was observed,” the report states.
In 2017, Hurricane Irma washed out a portion of Manasota Key Road at the north end of the public Blind Pass Beach. Sarasota County rebuilt and realigned that portion of roadway. The roadway survived Elsa without problems.
Elsa did wash over and sweep sand over stretches of northern Casey Key Road near Nokomis, between Venice and Sarasota.
The storm filled a pool with sand and flooded a public beach access at the intersection of Beach Road at Columbus Avenue on Siesta Key in Sarasota.
Overall, county staff concluded Sarasota did not experience any widespread coastal damage from Elsa. Also, the storm allowed some sand to gather, instead of erode, along some stretches of shoreline.