Major Pinellas Beach renourishment project hits snag

Posted at 6:15 PM, May 25, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-25 18:15:56-04

A major project to add sand from Clearwater to North Redington Beach along an area known as Sand Key is in jeopardy!

Pinellas County leaders are having a hard time getting private property owners to sign off on easements for the renourishment. 

Miles of shoreline along Sand Key are washing away. This fall, Pinellas County leaders want to add enough sand to stack up on a football field as tall as Tampa’s biggest highrise. To do it right, they need private property owners to sign an easement. In exchange for sand, they have to give up some of their private land.

“It was a little unsettling, I’m not going to lie,” Mary Wilkerson explained, whose family owns vacations cottage along the project. It’s land Wilkerson’s family has paid taxes on for decades. “That's why it is a bit heavy handed, in my opinion.”

If Wilkerson signs the easement, it means public money will pay for sand on her private property and would open that land up for public use. Wilkerson worries that will lead to people planting their beach chairs right outside Wilkerson’s vacation cottages ruining her guests peace and quiet. 

Only 45% of property owners have signed the easements, and Pinellas County says that will mean big gaps in the project especially in the areas between Indian Rocks Beach and Indian shores, the area between Indian Shores and Redington Shores and the area between Redington Shores and North Redington Beach. That could mean the sand washes away quicker because the project won't be as effective with gaps. 

Dr. John Bishop in Pinellas County's Coastal Mangement team explained, “We're disappointed with that number but there isn’t a lot of time left for anything but to ask people to reconsider.”

The Army Corp of Engineers say without enough signatures they’ll be forced to scale back the project or cancel it.

It's something Michelle Dejacimo, a vacationer from Ohio, won’t accept. “The sand today is hardly existant. Private property owners need to get on board. Make it happen. Get the pen and sign the paper. Give us our beach!”

The deadline is just 8 days away for property owners to sign the easements for Sand Key.

Pinellas County hopes to start construction to add more sand to the beach by this fall.