ANNA MARIA — Property owners on the city's bay side from Bean Point to the Rod&Reel pier are back to square one with badly eroded seawalls and beaches.
Resident Joan Dickinson has been working on the issue for nearly 10 years.
"Every time I think we will get help, we're either told there is this problem or that problem or there's no money, and meanwhile, our homes are threatened," she said.
Dickinson and her neighbors have seen their shoreline washed away in the past several years.
"The currents have changed," said Coastal Engineering's Rick Spadoni, who has worked on Island renourishment projects for more than 20 years. "With Passage Key now mostly underwater, the currents have been redirected closer to shore, and that's scouring the bay side of the Island there."
Though the area has been deemed "critically eroded" by the state government, because of the currents, that strip of bay shore has been determined to be part of the Gulf of Mexico. As such, it's eligible for state and local funding.
But property owners will not be seeing any money from those sources for at least 15 years, according to Charlie Hunsicker, the director of Manatee County's conservation lands management.
"There just isn't any money," Hunsicker told city commissioners at a work session on Jan. 27. "We'll be lucky to get the scheduled renourishment projects funded and completed with the economy as it is."
Hunsicker pointed out that renourishment funding is considered discretionary, and like all discretionary projects, is at risk of being cut.
"There isn't even any money to do an engineering study," he told commissioners.
What would it cost?
Fixing the erosion problem on the north end would come with a steep price tag, according to Hunsicker.
There's a reason for that.
"If you put sand down there, it'll just be swept away in the first storm," Hunsicker said. "To hold the sand, you'd need T-groins to hold that sand."
For the permanent solution with those groins, the cost would be $4,815,000.
Hunsicker noted that the county doesn't have the money.
There is an interim solution, which would involve placing Geotextile tubes down. The cost for those tubes, which are fabric sausage-like devices which are filled with sand and have been used elsewhere, including on Longboat Key at the north end of that Island. The cost would be $850,000 for a temporary fix that would likely last only a year or two.
Again, there is not any money at the county level.
"There isn't money," Hunsicker said. "There are only a handful of homeowners up there, and a lot of those homes are ground level and will flood anyway in a storm tide. There's only so much you can do."
Dickinson has asked Mayor Mike Selby to help find a solution.
"I'll do what I can to check into this," Selby said. "These folks have a serious problem, but there doesn't seem to be any money to fix this problem."
Dickinson wants something done, but she wants someone to look into the possibility of rebuilding some existing groins that are underwater now.
She said she's pessimistic about getting that paid for.
"Other options of protecting our property are increasing the height of our sea walls and/or adding splash aprons to stop erosion on the home side of our sea walls," Dickinson said. "However, sea walls just increase erosion."
Dickinson said she's done with the long fight.
"Lots of work here," she said in a letter to Selby. "Lots of questions. Who will spearhead this effort? I'm ready to hand this over to the mayor, commissioners or other area residents. Who is interested?"
Dickinson wonders where the money will come from. She questions whether there isn't some emergency measure that could help.
"Are residents interested in looking at Longboat Key's plan, which is island funded, with waterfront property owners paying more than interior residents?" she asked.
Longboat Key's renourishment funding comes from property owners while Manatee County's come from a combination of state, federal and bed tax dollars.
Since Longboat Key doesn't provide an adequate number of public parking spaces, that island isn't eligible for state or federal funding and thus, property owners there pay every dime of renourishment projects there.
So as it stands now, Dickinson has had enough.
The city or the residents here will have to pick up the fight," she said. "I'm done."