TREASURE ISLAND — City officials are far from happy about the shortage of new sand piped onto Sunset Beach in recent weeks.
But there is little they can do about it, and that makes them even unhappier.
Dredging has stopped. What sand is there now will be tilled and shaped, according to City Manager Reid Silverboard.
In places there remains a nearly 2-foot escarpment that creates a virtual cliff between the edge of the previously heavily eroded upper beach and the newly pumped sand.
"The downside is we just didn't get as much shoreline protection as we would have in a full renourishment program," Mayor Bob Minning said Friday.
The problem was twofold: not enough money and not enough of the right kind of sand.
Beach renourishment is a project planned and paid for by the county, the state and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The city has input but no control over the program.
The last beach renourishment, in 2005, dredged and barged sand from shoals off Egmont Key to build up the county's south beaches. Because of tightening budgets, the sand source for the 2010 program was changed to John's Pass.
In Treasure Island, much of that sand lasted until a series of storms last winter severely eroded Sunshine Beach and parts of Sunset Beach.
The worst erosion occurred at Sunshine Beach, where waves devoured dunes, lifted up dune walkovers, and completely washed away stairs.
Because of that damage, Sunshine Beach was fully renourished, Silverboard said.
"Everybody is pretty satisfied up there," he said.
Sunset Beach was only partly renourished to correct the most severely eroded areas.
Caddy's owner Tony Amico complained that he received "nothing" despite a written agreement with the state that his privately owned beach would be renourished.
Residents also called City Hall wondering if any more sand would be put on their beach.
"I guess as long as there is a dredge out there, there is a chance, but it is very slim," said Commissioner Alan Bildz, who represents Sunset Beach on the City Commission.
Instead of starting near Sunset Vista Park as in 2005, this year's renourishment program started at Weckesser Park south of Caddy's and ended about 77th Avenue just south of the Sunset Beach Pavilion Park.
"About 600 feet of beach didn't get any renourishment this time, and the depth of sand is not as great," Silverboard said.
The length of Sunset Beach to receive new sand was also reduced. Then officials discovered there was not enough of the right kind of sand in John's Pass.
"There was plenty of sand, but the state said it was not compatible with our beaches," the mayor said.
It seems that the temperature, grain size and color of sand can determine the sex of baby turtles and must match what is normally found on a beach.
"Starting more than a year ago, we tried to get the renourishment plan rectified, but it was to no avail," Minning said.
On Friday morning, local, county and state officials met with representatives of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to review the current renourishing program and begin planning for the next renourishment, scheduled for 2013.
"What will govern the extent of the next renourishment is funding, particularly at the federal level," Minning said.