Egmont Key is disappearing into the ocean

60% of historic island washed away since 1850
Posted at 7:24 PM, Jun 21, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-21 19:24:32-04

Egmont Key is disappearing! 60% of the island near Fort De Soto and the Sunshine Skyway has eroded since the island was surveyed in 1850. Once 400 acres, the island is now only about 160 acres and is only 2 miles long and a 1/2 mile wide.


There’s a big push to save the historic island from vanishing all together.


A trip to the island takes just 15 minutes by boat from Fort De Soto Park.


The island paradise is steeped in history! Egmont Key was once home to 300 soldiers during the Spanish American War and the place Seminole Indians were kept in the 1800s.


Now, the island is fighting a losing battle with waves. 


Vinny Fugett, a captain with Island Boat Adventures explained, “Over the past 6 months I’ve watched it drastically change. We’re worried about it. If it breaks off into two different islands the whole island will deteriorate in a year’s time or so.”


Fugett brings close to 100 people to Egmont Key every day to snorkel. He’d be heartbroken to lose his favorite spot.


The island serves as a barrier to protect the mouth of Tampa Bay, but it’s is so badly threatened, it was recently named the 11th most endangered historic site in florida. It’s the first site to ever make it on Florida Trust for Historic Preservation’s list because of rising sea levels.


Community members are desperate to step in now to save it. 


John Anderson who also works for Island Boat Adventures added, “If it’s not there, nobody will be able to enjoy it like we are now and that would be a shame.”


The Army Corp of Engineers plans to add more sand to the island next year. But it too, will soon wash away. 


A long term fix is tricky. Dozens of loggerhead sea turtles nest on Egmont Key, so building a wall as a barrier to waves is out of the question. 


Another alternative is to add sheet piling to keep the sand in place. The drawback: It would cost at least $13 million. 


It’s a cost island visitor Denise Wilson argues is worth every cent, “It’s a beautiful island and that lighthouse! Wow! The history! We need to keep the history here for the long term so we need them to bring more sand. Bring more sand everybody.”


All it takes is one severe tropical storm, and Egmont Key and it’s history, could be washed away forever. 


The Army Corp of Engineers stresses they’ll do everything they can to keep that from happening. Laurel Reichold, project manager, explained, “We were just on Egmont Key and it is a historical gem. It is a high priority for our organization.”


There are close to 40,000 seabirds on the island, dozens of gopher tortoises, snakes and loggerhead sea turtle nests.