Vol 6 No. 47 - August 16, 2006

The fight to save Egmont Key


A renourishment project is launched to help slow the relentless erosion of the key's Gulf shoreline
PHOTO/TROY MORGAN


By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

There's a lot of activity on that small spit of sand north of Anna Maria Island in Tampa Bay called Egmont Key and when it ends, there will be more of Egmont to appreciate.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began a renourishment project last Friday that is expected to last 90 days and add a million cubic yards of sand to the key. According to Pinellas County Coastal Coordinator Dr. Nicole Elko, the sand will help protect the historic fort there.

"The project will add sand a mile long, some three-fourths of the beach area on the west side of the key," she said. "It will go out 200 feet, form a berm and then gradually incline into the water."

The project is part of a Corps dredging project, a regular event to deepen the shipping channel in Tampa Bay. The sand that it brings up is being transported to Egmont and pumped ashore, according to Corps Project Manager Tim Murphy.

"We normally dredge the channel about every 10 years," he said. "It just so happens that the material we brought up was the right quality for putting on Egmont Key."

Murphy said that after it finishes renourishing Egmont Pinellas County.

According to Elko, the last time the Corps renourished Egmont was in 2000. She said it is renourishing the same area as then and are placing two geo-tubes on shore to help prevent more erosion.

"Geo-tubes are sand filled polyester bags that are about 200 feet long," she said. "They will be situated perpendicular to the beach like a jetty.

"Being polyester, they are more environmentally friendly than using other materials because they decompose over time," she said. "We placed two of them during the last project and they lasted until last year."

Egmont Key was once used as a guard post for Tampa Bay. A fort and gun batteries were built in 1898 to protect the bay, but erosion has caused the water to creep up the beaches to the point where at least one battery is surrounded by water. Murphy said water is lapping at the fort now and it is becoming undermined by water. He said that's one reason the Corps is trying to built up the beaches. The 400-acre island is 1 1/2 miles long and less than a half-mile wide.

The overall dredging and renourishment project costs $15 million, according to Elko, and will come from the Corps' maintenance budget. Murphy said using sand dredged from the channel is something the Corps will continue doing.

"We made a commitment in writing that every time we dredge Tampa Bay, we would study the sand to see if it is the right quality to use for the beaches," he said.


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