Longboat Key battles beach erosion

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LONGBOAT KEY, Fla. -- For years the town of Longboat Key has been dealing with rapid beach erosion on the northern end of the barrier island. A permit granted recently by the state may finally fix the problem.

"We noticed a lot of erosion changes and I said to my husband, ‘oh oh, mother nature has decided she wants it and she's going to take it back,’" says Gale Kaleel, a snowbird from Michigan who’s been visiting the area for years. Kaleel says the depletion of Longboat Key’s beach has progressed far enough that her favorite spot is no longer there.

"Over the last 4 or 5 years it’s just unbelievable how the beach has changed,” she says. “We stopped by today and our mouths dropped, we just went ahh, we couldn't believe it. Three-quarters of it is gone now gone."

The issue of beach erosion is one that Longboat Key officials are all to familiar with.

"In 2011 we put down $4 million worth of sand, and in seven months it was all gone," says Town Manager Dave Bullock.

In addition, Bullock says they are dealing with several erosion hot spots. One of them is off North Shore Road, where the water is now about 50 feet from residential property.

On Mon., April 14, the town granted a permit to add sand to the beach and to build concrete anti-erosion structures called groins. The hope is that these additions will help prevent future sand depletion.

"We really need these structures to help hold the sand in place, so that those homes can have some shoreline protection," Bullock says.

It’s a solution that residents and tourists alike worry will fall short.

"For people here that have real estate, its going to be of great concern for them,” says Kaleel, “and of course, for people like us that like to come to this beach, its kinda [a letdown] because you come to beach and its not there anymore."

The bidding process for the project opened today. Officials say they hope to have construction underway by the summer of 2015.