As Marathon makes plans to put barriers in the water to prevent more sand erosion at Coco Plum Beach, one Marathon resident thinks the same should happen at one of the Middle Keys’ most popular attractions: Sombrero Beach.
Steve Errera, who lives on Treasure Island east of Sombrero Beach, said he wants to know why the city isn’t following up on a study performed in 2010 about solutions for similar erosion problems on the .3-mile stretch of beach in Marathon.
Errera said strong winds transport sand east into the canals on Treasure Island. The canals have been dredged twice in the past decade using public money and private funds from homeowners.
“Our canals continue to shoal higher and higher,” said Michael Held, another Treasure Island homeowner.
According to the lengthy Sombrero Beach and Treasure Island Feasibility Study performed for the city by Weiler Engineering Corp. in 2010, Sombrero Beach would continue to erode “and during storm events sand could migrate to the east and contribute to the shoaling of the canal” if no action was taken.
Also, a current along the west side of Treasure Island varies in magnitude, the report says, but its “direction is always to the north toward the canal entrance near the east end of Sombrero Beach, leading to potential sediment deposition at the entrance to the canal.”
The beach was replenished in 2010 and the study suggested alternatives to prevent future erosion: A jetty at the entrance to the canal, rock groins at the east end of the beach, or a segmented breakwater, none of which have been implemented.
“We’re willing to look at the issue but haven’t committed to a project yet,” said City Planner George Garrett. “I’m not saying we don’t lose sand off that beach. We do, but the sand goes from east to west because of prevailing winds, like all the other sand drifts on the entire south side of Marathon.”
Garrett said a recent study about erosion off Coco Plum Beach by engineering firm Bermello Ajamil & Partners concluded there are very few circumstances in which sand flows from west to east in the Keys.
For now the focus in on barriers at Coco Plum Beach, which won’t happen for a few years as the project needs approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other federal agencies before work can start.
For Errera, the Treasure Island canals aren’t a concern anymore, he said. It’s the beach and preservation for thousands of annual visitors.
“They’re not going to Coco Plum. They’re going to Sombrero,” he said.
Greater Marathon Chamber of Commerce chief executive Daniel Samess agreed.
“I don’t have exact numbers but from a visitor standpoint I’d say the ratio is probably 30 percent going to Coco Plum and 70 percent going to Sombrero, maybe more,” he said. “But I do understand why the city is doing this at Coco Plum — it’s washing away.”
Katie Atkins: 305-440-3219