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Study on John's Pass sand blocking issue is complete, but barriers surrounding solutions remain

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Posted at 8:40 PM, Aug 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-27 23:28:55-04

MADEIRA BEACH, Fla.  — It’s a story we’ve followed for nearly a year now. Sand continuing to deposit inside the John’s Pass channel, eliminating waterfront property, and overtaking boat docks in one of the top tourist destinations on Florida’s west coast.

Now a study, aimed at finding out where the sand is coming from, and what the solutions are is complete. But following through with the solutions is proving to be more difficult than business owners were hoping.

“My family has been sending letters to the state, county, city government, since the early 90s,” said Capt. Dylan Hubbard, Owner of Hubbard’s Marina.

For Hubbard, the findings of that study, conducted by Dr. Ping Wang, a professor in the School of Geosciences at USF, came with little surprise.

“The study concluded with the conclusion that we needed to dredge, which is something we’ve been saying for 30+ years,” said Hubbard.

Dr. Wang found that the best way to fix the issue is to dredge the sand from John’s Pass Village, clear down to the end of Madeira Beach jetty. It’s a fix he believes would last around 15 years.

“I believe a local solution is the best,” said Dr. Ping Wang, a professor in the School of Geosciences at USF.

While it wouldn’t last forever, Dr. Wang believes a local solution would be easiest, because longer term solutions may negatively affect areas outside John’s Pass.

“Before we can even evaluate whether it works for this particular area or not, we have to establish that it would not have larger area influence, being positive or negative,” said Dr. Wang.

And while Hubbard’s Marina, and the city, were hoping for something longer term, they’re worried they won’t even get the short term fix.

“The county has just shut down on us. It’s pretty much carved in stone in dealing with Barry Burton that this is a private land issue, and it’s up to them to bridge it,” said Madeira Beach Mayor John Hendricks.

The property running through John’s Pass is owned by several different private, local, and state entities. But the county says it’s up to the private businesses to take care of the sand.

“They’ll have to determine how in fact they come up with the funding. The private property owner, I mean, I had this discussion with him. I think they understand it’s private property,” said Pinellas County Administrator Barry Burton.

However, Hubbard reaffirms that the study suggested dredging the entire length of the jetty, which extends beyond private land.

“80 percent or more of this area is not private land. A majority of this is FDOT easement, county and Army Corps easement around the jetty,” said Hubbard.

The Army Corps of Engineers told ABC Action News last October that any request for additional dredging through the channel would have to come from the county.

That’s where more than 40 businesses in John’s Pass Village, and the city, believe they’ve hit a roadblock.

“He manages and he dictates what the county commission does, and he’s made it very clear he’s not willing to help on this issue,” said Hubbard.

The county says they’ll continue to help facilitate the discussion surrounding issues in John’s Pass, and the next time they’ll do that is coming up in a meeting next week.