Erosion-stemming structures would cost hotels $800,000 total
CLEARWATER — The city council is expected to decide tonight whether to support an initiative by Shephard’s and Quality beach resorts to shore up the existing sand and re-establish a stable beach along the hotels’ shorefront.
Kevin Bodge, a senior vice president and principal engineer of Olsen Associates, Inc., representing the hotels, told the council Monday that stabilizing structures called “T-groins” would trap sand that seems to drift and shoal east of the Sand Key Bridge.
The three proposed “T-groins” would extend from the beach to function like jetties. The project would involve building one more of the bulky, sand-filled tubes in the middle of the two existing ones and adding T-shaped caps to all three.
In more recent years, currents and tides from the Gulf of Mexico have swept sand into Clearwater Pass. The wave pattern appears to have caused sand to drift east and shoal at Clearwater Point.
According to Bill Morris, the city’s marine and aviation director, shoaling also has begun to encroach on the navigational channel, which was dredged by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last year at the city’s expense of nearly $755,000.
Bodge reassured the council that the hotels’ proposal will cost the city nothing and require no municipal assistance other than council support so the project can proceed through the state and federal permitting processes.
Three principal permits required for the work are issued through the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the corps of engineers and the Pinellas County Water and Navigation Control Authority, and could take longer than 18 months to secure, according to Bodge. Garnering the approval of the army corps could take 14 to 15 months alone, he said.
Bodge estimated that the T-groin project would cost Shephard’s about $500,000 and Quality Inn about $300,000.
The existing sand-retention structures behind the hotels stretch out about 130 feet from the seawall, and the proposed groins won’t protrude further into the pass.
Bodge told the council that his company has been involved in as many as 60 projects around the world and only one required sand renourishment 22 years later.
“It is surprising how well it works,” although he contractually could not offer a warranty or guarantee the same success in this project, Bodge said.
To demonstrate the severity of the erosion, Bodge shared photos taken in July at low tide, “and as you can see there is no beach behind Shephard’s.”
He attributed the loss of beach and shifting sands to natural causes.
Mayor George Cretekos raised concerns that the city’s 50-foot easement along that area of the inlet, which is underwater, has no direct public access.
City Manager Bill Horne suggested that staff discuss the possibility of using an access corridor that has been built on the east edge of the Shephard’s property as part of its expansion and renovation project currently underway.
In September, Manny Oliver, general manager of Quality Beach Resort, told the city’s Marina Advisory Board, “The value of what we have to offer our guests is diminishing. Our visitors expect beachfront property.”
“We're in the beach business,” Councilmember Jay Polglaze said during the Monday work session, “and they're willing to pay for it.”
The city council is scheduled to continue the discussion when it meets at 6 tonight in its chambers in city hall, 112 S. Osceola Ave.