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Finally, a much needed solution to a sandy intruder at John’s Pass | Editorial
For years, sand has accumulated on the north side of the pass, creating problems at the John’s Pass Village in Madeira Beach.
Sand piles up near the John’s Pass boardwalk as seen June 16 in Madeira Beach.
Sand piles up near the John’s Pass boardwalk as seen June 16 in Madeira Beach. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.
Published Jun. 25

After years of wrangling, John’s Pass will finally get the dredging it so badly needs. The sand accumulating on the north side of the pass is a safety hazard and has imperiled businesses at the popular tourist and entertainment destination. While it took too long to get to this point, the finish line is thankfully in sight.

For years, currents stripped sand from updrift beaches, hooked around the heel of the barrier island, and dropped it on the northside of the John’s Pass channel. One likely factor for the accumulation: Strong incoming currents bring the sand into the channel but a naturally weak outgoing current on the north side of the channel can’t flush it back out. The semi-circle shaped sandbar looks benign enough, but it blocks storm drains and disrupts businesses that require water to dock their boats, the Times Chris Kuo reported earlier this week. The small beach also entices swimmers and paddlers, some unaware that stepping into the channel could put them into a dangerous and fast moving current.

In fact, Madeira Beach Fire Chief Clint Belk said the sand buildup has helped turn the pass into the county’s No. 1 spot for water rescues. Last month, four swimmers were caught in the John’s Pass current. Paddle boarders saved three of them, but the fourth man died in the water.

Why wasn’t the sand dredged? It was. In 2017, the John’s Pass Village landlord spent $186,000 to remove the sand, but it piled back up in less than a year, the Times reported. In 2020, about 40 business owners signed a petition pleading for government help. Of course, it wasn’t that easy. The body of water that is John’s Pass between Madeira Beach and Treasure Island is a state inlet with a federal navigation channel. The sand on the new beach belongs to the adjacent property owner because it is above the main high water line, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection said. The city of Madeira Beach asked the county for help, but the county said it did not fund that kind of dredging project. At the time, the Army Corps of Engineers was preparing to look at coastal storm damage solutions for the shorelines between Treasure Island and Long Key, but not at the sand piling up in John’s Pass. A stalemate ensued — and the sand remained.

The breakthrough finally came earlier this month when Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the state budget, which included $1.5 million for dredging the pass. A hat tip to first-term Rep. Linda Chaney, R.-St. Pete Beach, and others who pushed for state funding. A few bureaucratic hurdles remain — fingers crossed — but the dredging should resolve the problem for 10 to 15 years. Developing our coastal areas and altering the coast line come with ongoing costs. This is one of them.

Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, Sherri Day, Sebastian Dortch, John Hill, Jim Verhulst and Chairman Paul Tash. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.

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