TREASURE ISLAND — Beginning in May, beachgoers may have to dodge pipes pumping sand on Sunset Beach and Sunshine Beach but the payoff will be a renourished shoreline.
For the first time since 2010, the city's north and south beaches, which have been eroding naturally — and were hit by Tropical Storm Debby in 2012 — will have sand replenished in a $10.8 million project.
"We are pleased that the project has been approved and funding is ready," Mayor Bob Minning said. "It's not a question of if but when."
Originally expected to begin in October, the project was pushed back after the Army Corps of Engineers said dredge contractors were busy and would submit higher bids if that time frame was used, said Andy Squires, environmental services manager with Pinellas County.
By pushing it back seven months, Squires said there is enough money to now replenish much of St. Pete Beach.
The Treasure Island renourishment is being funded 60 percent by federal funds ($6.9 million) and 20 percent each by state and local funds or ($1.9 million each).
Sunset Beach in south Treasure Island has been hit the hardest, said Jim Murphy, public works director for Treasure Island.
"There has been 30 to 40 feet of sand lost in some spots and we lost the dune structure in some locations," he said.
The city this year considered possible temporary measures to help stabilize the beaches through a process called sand sharing, Murphy said, where surplus sand would have been moved to areas severely eroded.
"We came close to doing that but a potential concern was if we did that, we wouldn't get the full renourishment money we needed," he said.
Minning sent emails and made phone calls lobbying for money to battle the erosion. He got support from state and federal legislators.
"It was a very collaborative effort," he said.
Because turtle nesting season starts May 1, Squires said the area where sand from Egmont Key will be pumped onto the beach from a dredge offshore will be closely monitored, probably by workers from the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Any nests that are deemed in the way of the pumping will be relocated, he said.
Although contractors have until September to finish the renourishment, Squires expects it could be completed by early July.
It's expected that 500-foot sections may be roped off from beachgoers while the project is under way, he said. However, entire beaches won't be closed.