VENICE — Sarasota County Commissioner Charles Hines doesn’t want water issues to sink from view, whether it be red tide or coastal erosion.
“We’ve got a lot of demand to deal with red tide, and we can’t let it go away, go away from our priorities,” Hines said at the commission meeting Wednesday. But Hines sees bigger issues tied up with controlling the toxic red tide algae.
“Red tide is a natural occurring event, but is man making it worse?” Hines said. The bigger issue, he suggested, is for the county to address water quality.
“We’ve done a lot to deal with water quality, but is there more that we can do?” Hines asked. He shared with commissioners a Florida Today article recounting how Brevard County implemented stricter septic tank regulations to reduce pollution and protect the Indian River Lagoon.
Specifically, should Sarasota County reexamine the county’s policies dealing with the permitting of new septic tanks and what type of septic tanks. Should the county re-implement inspections of older septic tanks. But that would cost more money, Hines said.
“Those are two options we could have right now — or should consider this coming year,” Hines said.
Commission Chairwoman Nancy Detert noted, too, that “red tide is not an issue that is going away,” especially after being a major issue for Floridians in the mid-term election. Detert expects the state will invest more into addressing red tide and hopes the county will be able to tap into those funds.
“It’s got to be more than research,” Detert said. “Hopefully, there will be some strategies that we can implement. As a coastal county, we should more than qualify for any funding available.”
Water issues for Hines also extends to beach erosion on Manasota Key.
Sarasota County recently approved funding for Coastal Engineering Consultants to evaluate beach erosion on Manasota Key from the Sarasota-Charlotte county line north to a mile north of the public Blind Pass Beach.
Coastal Engineering is the firm overseeing Charlotte County’s plans for beach nourishment and management for its portion of Manasota Key. Sarasota County has taken the first steps to join Charlotte County.
Hines recently visited Manasota Key and saw where erosion was eating away the Gulf shoreline fronting homes.
“There are a few homes that are close to falling in,” he said, providing the commissioners with photographs he took of what homeowners were facing.
Commissioners also heard first hand from Manasota Key residents about what they are facing.
“We need a solution to combat red tide, beach erosion and to simplify the regulation to protect properties,” Charles Miller said. He encouraged Sarasota to join Charlotte County in its beach management efforts.
“The beaches and sand dunes have disappeared,” Miller said. He did thank commissioners for allowing homeowners like him to allow them to protect their homes with large sand bags for at least three years.
Manasota Key Association president Jackie Ruthman reaffirmed what Hines said. “We need to keep this issue on the front burner. Several homes are in eminent danger from the next big storm,” Ruthman said.
Harry Artz said a four-foot surge from Hurricane Michael washed over sand bags and eroded away 15 feet of sand behind the bags — sand he’s had to replace that sand on three occasions.
Ruthman invited commissioners who haven’t seen the erosion to visit Manasota Key, suggesting photos “don’t tell the whole story.”