Construction project aims to keep popular island from eroding away

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VENICE, Fla. - A popular boating destination just inside the Venice Inlet is washing away. Snake Island is down to about 1/6 its size from just a decade ago. Now a new project is aimed at fixing it.

Snake Island isn't actually known these days for having snakes. It is however a second home for those like Pat McCarthy with a group which watches over the island, called the Snake Island Republic. “It's everything that people come here for. There is not another place like it that I know of on the west coast of Florida."

The little piece of paradise in the middle of the inlet though is eroding away. “The smaller it gets, the quicker it erodes," says McCarthy.

Venice Marine Patrol officer Paul Joyce says it's one of the most popular boating destinations in all of Sarasota County. "The water area is just littered with boats that you can actually just walk boat to boat without getting wet."

The Snake Island Republic has been working with Joyce, Sarasota County, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the West Coast Inland Navigation District to save the island.

Without a plan, they believe it will vanish. "This island would definitely deteriorate completely and it would just become an underwater sandbar and then we would have other issues beyond the island."

After years of meetings and the search for the funds, the WCIND is spending around $350,000 to restore and protect the island. Rocks are already in place nearby to be barged over and set on the north and south sides. Sand will then be pumped up.

Joyce says it will benefit more than just users. "This isn't just a place for people to come to. Yes that is a small part of it, but the major part of this island here is that it's a buffer. It's a buffer for all the homes and property behind this island."

Workers will also be putting in some plants with roots designed to better hold in the sand. All this while making sure there is plenty of access to the island -- Snake Island Republic approved.

"We are extremely happy. We've been waiting with baited breath for this to get started, and it's starting. We are ready for it to get done," says McCarthy.

The island will be closed to visitors starting this week. It will then take between 60-90 days to get the job done.