Keys square off over sand

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SARASOTA, Fla. -- A battle is breaking out over sand between Lido and Siesta Key.  The Army Corps of Engineers wants to dredge sand from Big Pass and beef up Lido. But opponents say tampering with the channel could threaten the flow of white sand onto Siesta Key.

Austin Brown and Charlotte Ewald are getting married on Lido Beach next year, and they hope there's enough sand for the wedding party.

"I think they have to do something because the building behind us, when it's high tide, the water is at the building," she said.

It's strips of beach like that which has the Corps of Engineers looking to dredge a million cubic yards of sand from nearby New Pass to dump onto Lido.

"If that pass is dredged, they have no idea what effect it'll have on Siesta Beach," said Peter van Roekens, a Siesta Key resident and retired engineer.

Siesta Beach is one of the top beaches in the world--and something residents like Fred Bassinger don't want to toy with. "Without the beach the way it is now, people wouldn't come and that would not be good for the economy," Bassinger said.

But Lido Key residents say they've seen their beach shrink by the year. They're aware of the concerns by their counterparts on Siesta Key, but think their risk is greater.

"There risk is a potential, a conditional. Here it's a reality. I say to them, 'come and walk the beach at high tide and you'll see where it's single file,'" said Bob Fox, also a retired engineer.

The plan is to dredge a million cubic yards from the Big Pass shoal. Experts say that's a fraction of the 25 million cubic yard Big Pass shoal.

Big Pass Sarasota aerial

Still some Siesta residents don't want to risk it.

"Beaches come and go. Barrier islands are shifting piles of sand. And what happens when that natural flow is disturbed, we really just don't know," van Roekens said.

Nobody disagrees that Lido needs sand, but some question --where that sand should come from.

The cost of the project would be nearly $23 million, paid for by a combination of federal and state tax dollars--and the county tourist tax.