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Siesta Key Round Up

By Stan Zimmerman

Snowy Plovers are back

Siesta’s threatened Snowy Plovers have returned, and at least three nests have been identified and marked with buffers to keep people out. Volunteers hope people will stay out of the buffers, and keep their dogs off the beach, which are not allowed on Siesta Key beaches.

There are about 200 snowy plowers identified in Florida, and Siesta claims about 20 of them. They lay eggs in primitive nests on the beach, and are vulnerable to predators. One buffered area also has nests of the Least Tern on it. The two species get along, and the terns will “dive bomb” predators and people who get too near their nests.

Love is in the air for sea turtles too. They are returning to area beaches to lay eggs as they have for millions of years.

Key residents may start to see more public information about the rare and unusual critters they share the island with. At a recent Siesta Key Association meeting, members shared their ideas and observations from other island communities.

Some put fliers on the walls of elevators in condo and rental complexes. Others pass out leaflets and brochures. And public signage is another option used elsewhere.

Dredging discussion pushed back

The long-anticipated U.S. Army Corps of Engineers report on the impact of taking sand from Big Pass to renourish Lido Beach is delayed again. First due in April, then May, now it’s supposed to be completed in June.

That’s too late for the County Commission. They want to hold a public discussion on the corp’s 50-year plan to use Big Pass and New Pass to fill in Lido’s disappearing shoreline. County staffers say the soonest commissioners can hold the public discussion is at a workshop on Sept. 19.

The most recent delay in release of the corp report is an incompatibility with the needs of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. After release, it will be subject to review by the city and county staff, plus a peer review by Cliff Truitt, a Sarasota coastal engineer and one of the authors of the county’s Inlet Management Plan for Big Pass and New Pass.

North bridge seawall work OK’d

The long-stalled seawall replacement on the island side of the north bridge to Siesta Key is ramping back up. Duncan Seawall is in charge of the roughly $1 million project to replace nearly 800 feet of seawall.

The original contractor, CB Construction Services, stopped work last August after the company’s founder and president was found dead on a Big Pass sandbar. Prior to his death, a firm overseeing the work found fault with some of the concrete installation.

Beach Road drainage nears completion

It was proposed nearly 10 years ago to construct a stormwater treatment system to reduce the amount of contaminants that end up in the Gulf of Mexico preventing beach closures. The county health department was finding unacceptable levels of E. Coli and other bacteria in the waters off the beach, and traced the contamination to runoff to a swale connecting a stormwater impoundment areas to the gulf. Beach closures were brief, but provided terrible publicity.

The first plan called for the excess water to go into the Grand Canal from a pipe near the bridge, but residents didn’t like that idea. So then it was proposed to send the water offshore into the Gulf of Mexico using a long pipeline.

After the delays, permitting troubles, bad weather, engineering problems and a host of other impediments, the Beach Road drainage project is just about finished. The water will be disinfected using an ultraviolet filter and other means, and pumped into a 2,000-foot long pipe. There is a “diffuser device” at the end of the line to prevent the outfall from becoming a jet of wastewater.

Total cost is about $4.5 million, of which $1 million was a grant from the West Coast Inland Navigation District, another property-tax supported body.

A dozen new homes for Siesta Drive

As you drive towards the island on Siesta Drive, the construction you see starting on the north side of the road is called “The Enclave,” and will feature 12 new homes costing up to $1 million.

A Fort Myers developer hopes to have the model home ready to show at the start of the next tourist season. Park Shore Homes bought the land out of delinquency for about $1 million. Six of the houses will face Siesta Drive, and the other six will look north over Wisconsin Lane. All will be two-stories tall, with a courtyard wrapped around a pool.

No homeowners association is proposed, and all the homes will be fee-simple purchases.

Counting down the days

The only thing worse than waiting for the bus is waiting for a new bus line to start operation. For Siesta residents and visitors, the wait for the Siesta Key Trolley has seemed endless. And no, you won’t see it this month either.

But on July 12 the trolley is scheduled to start rolling every 20 to 30 minutes between the Gulfgate Mall and the Southgate Mall via Siesta Key with multiple stops along the way. Hang in there.