Canal cleanup revisited

red tide canal shores
This Coral Shores canal was much cleaner last week than it was two weeks ago. - Joe Hendricks | Sun

MANATEE COUNTY – Manatee County paid APTIM approximately $140,000 for a week’s worth of canal cleaning services, according to Information Outreach Manager Nick Azzara.

During a Monday, Aug. 27, press conference, county officials announced APTIM’s services had been discontinued

“The contractor was able to manage to have all those fish picked up in a week,” County Administrator Ed Hunzeker said.

Hunzeker and Commissioner Steve Jonsson also announced the county was transitioning to a voluntary “Nets to Neighbors” maintenance program that involved hand nets, buckets and dumpsters being placed in some waterfront neighborhoods.

Dated Aug. 17, the county’s contract with APTIM’s Boca Raton office included a not to exceed amount of $468,988. The contract stated APTIM would collect biological debris along the Bradenton Beach, Holmes Beach and Anna Maria bayside shorelines as well as the mainland shorelines along the Palma Sola and Sarasota Bay. The contract stated APTIM wouldn’t cleanup along the Gulf of Mexico, Longboat Key or the Manatee River shorelines.

The contract stated APTIM would provide three 26-foot marine work vessels manned by a captain and two deckhands who would manually skim the surface with nets to remove the floating debris. The contract also called for a survey vessel and a dedicated collection vessel to transport the collected debris to offloading areas for transport to the county landfill.

APTIM’s fee proposal listed $145,680 in labor costs, $35,698 in equipment costs and $287,610 in direct costs if the contract was carried out in full. APTIM’s projected direct costs included $272,580 for SWS Environmental Services – a national firm with locations in Tampa and St. Petersburg that offers on-water spill response services. SWS comprised 95 percent of APTIM’s projected direct costs.

APTIM’s work assignment sheet listed daily rates for engineers, managers, surveyors, a hydrographer, biologists, geologists and more. In addition to survey boats, the daily equipment rates included cameras, a pitch and roll compensator, tidal gauges, a fathometer, a navigation system and more. The direct cost rates consisted of meals, lodging, and mileage.

On Saturday, Aug. 25, Manatee County Environmental Program Manager Damon Moore sent an email to County Commission Executive Assistant Sheri Smith explaining his decision to discontinue APTIM’s services.

“We were relying on this contractor to remove large mats of floating rotting fish in canals and boat accessible shorelines. By midday Friday they had worked through the existing large contiguous masses mostly within the areas of Coral Shores, Bowlees Creek, and Trailer Estates. With the lack of accessible floating masses and fish rotting to the extent that they could not effectively be removed via the nets, I made the decision that this waterside approach was no longer an effective or wise use of funds at over $25k per day. I did this after a report from the helicopter survey on Friday of no more significant floating masses in the bay and speaking with Ed (Hunzeker) and Dan (Schlandt),” Moore’s email said.

On Aug. 21, county commissioners amended the fiscal year budget and appropriated $750,000 in county funds for red tide response. In turn, the county has a received a funding commitment for a $750,000 FDEP grant.

During the press conference, Hunzeker said the cleanup costs were $250,000, but he provided no details. Azzara said later that figure included APTIM’s fees, overtime pay for county employees and other costs associated with the county’s red tide response.

Canal conditions

A Wednesday, Aug. 29, visit to the Coral Shores neighborhood on Cortez Road revealed only small amounts of dead fish and horseshoe crabs floating in the canal ends. Two weeks ago, those canal ends were filled with dead and rotting fish, and the smell was nearly unbearable.

A dumpster had been placed along the main entry road, accompanied by a sign that said, “Fish Disposal Only.” A peek inside the dumpster revealed no dead fish.

red tide canal dumpster
The county placed this dumpster in the mainland Coral Shores neighborhood. – Submitted | Sun

A visit to the neighboring Mt. Vernon community revealed similar canal conditions.

On Sunday, Coral Shores resident Lindy Gallagher said she didn’t see dead fish in her canal, but black algae had appeared. Resident Kelly Strom said there was a bad odor in the air, and she was seeing sheets of green algae floating in the canal.

An Aug. 29 visit to a residential canal at 20th Place North in Bradenton Beach revealed a bayside canal end covered with seagrass, dead fish, eels and horseshoe crabs, with flies and maggots congregating on the decomposing marine life.

One block over, the 21st Place North canal contained only a few floating fish and crabs.

When contacted, County Commissioners Carol Whitmore and Steve Jonsson said they were not aware of APTIM doing any work along the Island shorelines, and Whitmore said none of the Island mayors requested assistance.

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