Most of 500,000 cubic yards of sand that was pumped two years ago from nearby John's Pass to replenish the beach here is staying put, according to the latest study. That's good news, say state and county engineers who have reviewed the report.
What may not be good news is that much of the erosion that is occurring is in the area of the controversial breakwater _ a pile of rocks put up in 1986 off the county access beach in Redington Shores to prevent beach erosion.
"The erosion that occurred definitely has something to do with the presence of the breakwater," said Li-Hwa Lin, assistant research scientist in the University of Florida's Department of Coastal and Oceanographic Engineering.
Lin and his associates, along with researchers at the University of South Florida, have periodically surveyed the approximately three-mile stretch of shoreline since it was replenished in 1988. The latest report is the eighth and final report in the series.
A portion of the final report is expected to be completed within 30 days, according to James Terry, chief of Pinellas County's Coastal Management Division.
Terry declined to comment on the study's finding that the breakwater seemed to be contributing to erosion of sand in the off-shore portion of the beach that was surveyed.
But Lonnie Ryder, environmental administrator with the state's division of beaches and shores, said he hopes to call a meeting with Terry in the next few weeks to discuss concern about the breakwater.
"I think the study is valuable and indicates we may have a continuing problem with that breakwater," Ryder said. "It is something that we need to discuss at this point."
Redington Beach Mayor Ramona Updegraff, a vocal opponent of the use of breakwaters, hopes the study results will bolster her stand against the structures. She and other critics of breakwaters contend they rob sand from one beach to build another.
"I am writing a letter to Pinellas County (officials) and commissioners to ask if they would evaluate this for the long term and if they would consider not ever considering hard structures for our coastline," she said.
In 1986, Updegraff almost single-handedly persuaded Gov. Bob Martinez and the Florida Cabinet to decide against placing five breakwaters from North Redington Beach to Indian Rocks Beach.
Updegraff's action resulted in about a year's delay of beach nourishment projects at Indian Rocks Beach and Indian Shores. The Indian Rocks Beach restoration project currently is under way, and the county is seeking a permit to begin the Indian Shores section.
Recent concern over a sediment that is killing offshore sponges may result in further delays for the Indian Shores project.