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Sarasota Waterfront Alliance Another Citizens Group Working for the Waterfront By Harmon Heed feet. The channel meanThe Sarasota Waterfront ders and is not always Alliance is a group of ten well marked. people who are working Many studies have been toward improving navigaconducted on Sarasota’s tion in Sarasota’s two passpasses. The two most es to the Gulf, Big Pass and recent have concentrated New Pass. They have good on Big Pass, but neither of reason to do so. Hundreds them were precipitated by of millions of dollars are the navigation issue. Inspent by boaters in Southstead, both were promulwest Florida every year, gated by the need of sand but, as Sam Chavers, the for beach replenishment dockmaster at Sarasota’s on popular Lido and Siesta pristine Marina Jack Marina Keys. The first study was and an Alliance member, done by doctors Richard says, “Sarasota is one of the Aerial photo of Big Sarasota Pass in 1972 showing multiple channels Davis and Ping Wang from few boating communities cutting the ebb delta. the Coastal Research laboin Florida without a susratory at the University of tainable inlet.” South Florida in 2003. The According to a 2007 two engineers studied Big study by the Florida Fish Pass back to the 1880s and and Wildlife Conservation concluded in their summaCommission (FWC), boatry that “...there are several ing in Florida has an annumillion cubic yards of al dollar impact of beach quality sand in the $20,000,000,000 (that’s twenBig Pass shoal.” They also ty billion!) and provides reported that, “…there is 220,000 jobs. Of that, $8.5little likelihood that Big billion is spent directly by Pass will close...” boaters and does not The second study was include boat sales. Boaters conducted by Coastal in Southwest Florida alone Oblique photography from 1997 showing the elongated and spit-like Technology Corporation (Manatee, Sarasota, De nature of the ebb tidal delta of Big Sarasota Pass. (CTC) beginning in 2005. It Soto, Charlotte, Lee and took four years and cost the Collier counties) spend county $500,000. It came to the same conclusions doctors $1.5-million a year and provide 14,500 jobs. The Alliance Davis and Wang did and gave the county options and recthinks those numbers could be increased if Sarasota’s passommendations to go forward with. The owners of beach es were made more navigable. homes on affluent Siesta Key, ever wary of government The Alliance’s spokesman, Dennis Mathews of the intentions and competence, were not confident with the Longboat Key Club Moorings, affirms it’s trying to educate study’s results, so the county spent another $200,000 on a the County Board of Commissioners on the dollar value of peer study to review CTCs methods of study, findings and having the passes open so Sarasota can gain its share of the the computer model that predicts how various areas of boating dollar. “We’re trying to create a safe access through dredging would affect the migration of sand in the pass Big Pass and New Pass.” and on adjacent beaches. Three additional engineers conThey seem to be having an effect. During a presentacluded that CTC’s report was complete, thorough and tion on Big Pass at a Sarasota County Board of valid. Commissioner’s meeting on July 27, Commissioner Nora The two CTC engineers, Dr. Cliff Truit and Jim Marino, Patterson, who is a boater, has lived on Siesta Key for 40 had concluded that beach replenishment sand could safely years and sits on the West Coast Inland Navigation District be taken from the shoal north of Big Pass without affecting (WCIND) board, observed that, “Big Pass navigation the pass or adjacent beaches. They did not recommend became an issue two years ago when the Coast Guard dredging a new Big Pass channel because it would fill in in stopped marking it.“ She also said her experience shows less than two years. They did recommend maintenance the minimum depth in the pass is usually five to seven 32

November 2010