ENGLEWOOD — What may appear to some as strange lights in the Gulf off Manasota Key are actually lit bouys marking the construction areas for bare, hard-bottom rock reef habitats.

The project is underway, about a quarter-mile off the key, and the equipment is visible from shore.

“We placed 880,000 cubic yards of sand (on Manasota Key),” said Michael Poff, president of Coastal Engineering Consultants. His firm is overseeing the recent Gulf beach nourishment projects on Manasota Key in Sarasota and Charlotte counties, and Knight and Don Pedro islands south of Stump Pass.

“Everyone I’ve spoken to has been pleased with the quality of the sand,” Poff told the Charlotte County Beaches & Shores Advisory Committee on Thursday.

He offered kudos to the Charlotte and Sarasota County staffs, the sea turtle and shorebird nesting monitors, the South Manasota/Sandpiper Key Association and other residents for their cooperation and assistance.

State permitting agencies required the project include an artificial hard-bottom reef to replace a stretch of natural areas covered with sand from the nourishment project.

Workers will build two reefs, one 4.2 acres and another 1.8 acre, just north and south of the Englewood Beach, Poff said. A barge is anchored off Manasota Key, and Poff anticipated the construction of the reef to begin this week.

Coastal Engineering Consultants is now gathering data from the project and plans to schedule a formal presentation before Charlotte County commissioners in September.

Stump Pass next

The consultants are also analyzing the condition of the Stump Pass channel. The channel was last dredged in 2017. It’s scheduled for a maintenance dredging next year.

The good news, Poff said, is that he hasn’t heard any complaints from boaters.

“The channel seems to be able to hold on,” he said.

In the last three to four months, advisory board members Tommy Brock and Patrick Jurek, both boaters, suggested the pass channel is swinging south — as it has done in the past.

Also, three years ago, the county built a permeable rock groin at the southern tip of Manasota Key. The groin traps some of the sand drifting south in littoral currents along the shoreline.

The groin’s purpose was to slow up the flow of sand filling up the Stump Pass channel, while at the same time allowing some sand to pass through and be deposited onto the Palm Island and Knight Island beaches to the south of the pass.

The limestone groin was designed to extend 400 feet out from shore, before dredged sand was added to the shore. The groin extends out at a downward slope and extends another 100 feet below the water’s surface.

Next month, Poff intends to have more conclusive information about the permeable groin and conditions of the Stump Pass channel.

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