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Sarasota Tiger Bay debates Lido Key dredging project

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SARASOTA, Fla. -- The debate over the proposed dredging of Big Pass continues.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is proposing a plan to pump sand from a sandbar in Big Pass onto Lido Key, where the eroded shore may affect condos. But many people on Siesta Key say the sandbar protects their island from erosion.

The project is estimated to cost $22 million dollars, and will have to be re-done about every 5 years.

The Corps of Engineers plan has been met with resistance, with residents who oppose the project organizing via a Facebook page in an effort to help save their sand.

Meanwhile, the Lido Beach shoreline continues to erode, and many say further erosion is inevitable and will put homes and businesses in jeopardy.

But just south of Sarasota Big Pass is Siesta Key Beach, known for it's wide shoreline and white sand. Siesta key organizations and residents fear the effort to replenish north Lido with sand from Big Pass will negatively affect Siesta Beach.

"We feel it's very risky to potentially damage the flow, the alluvial flow, of sand down on Siesta Key Beach," says Rich Schineller, director, Perception Management, inc., and a resident of Siesta Key.

The Tiger Bay Club's roundtable discussion updated the community on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ plan to dredge Big Pass and place nearly 1.1 million cubic yards of sand onto Lido's shoreline. Panelists consisted of environmental professionals and engineers debating the actual erosion of Lido.

Proponents say the dredge is needed sooner than later.

"There's no doubt in our minds, this project must be completed or there's going to be disaster on Lido Beach," says John Kirker, Lido Beach chairman for 20 years.

“My concern on Lido Beach is that it's very badly eroded and a big storm could wipe out buildings rather than beach," says Len Smally, former director of public works for Longboat Key.

Opponents believe the amount of sand shoaled will negatively affect Siesta, along with the placement of three groins in South Lido. A Siesta Key hotel owner fears the dredge would affect her business.

"We rely primarily on the fact that we're on Siesta Key. Siesta Key's tourism, the fact that it's the number one beach, [the] 99 percent quartz sand," says Maria Bankemper, owner of the Best Western Siesta Key.

Sarasota's City Engineer says they are considering both the social and economic impact on Lido Beach and Siesta Key Beach.

"There's tens of millions of cubic yards of sand in that shoal right now and actually it's continuing to grow and so we're looking at taking a small amount of that and we have to make sure that the way it's taken, and the location its taken and the volume will not affect Siesta," says City of Sarasota engineer Alex Davis Shaw.