SIESTA KEY (FOX 13) - Turtle beach on Siesta Key is getting a facelift thanks to a beach restoration project. However, there's a tight deadline to finish before sea turtle nesting season begins.
Most of Turtle Beach has disappeared.
"Some sections of the beach had an 8 foot drop-off, so this is very desperately needed," said Paul Semenec with Sarasota County.
The county hired a contractor to restore the beach. The project will cost $21.5 million.
Property owners will pay for part of the project through a tax assessment. The rest is coming from state and local funding.
"Over the last year, there have been a number of storms that have come through and the waves have pounded on the beach," Semenec explained.
The restoration must be finished by May 1 for the start of sea turtle nesting season. Semenec said crews will work 24 hours a day to meet the deadline.
If the project is not complete by April 14, Mote Marine Laboratory will begin monitoring to see if sea turtles begin to come to the beach earlier than usual.
"This is a fast-moving project. The contractor's schedule has 40 days of work. They began yesterday, so they should easily make that timeline," Semenec said.
Dredging occurs about 7 to 10 miles off shore. Sand is then pumped from a barge to the beach, where workers are already spreading it around.
"We are going to have a much bigger, beautiful beach. The water line will be about 150 feet out into the water," Semenec described.
The disappearing beach, and work to restore it has caught the eye of nearly every turtle beach visitor. Debbie and Del Clough said they have visited the beach for 20 years. They love walking the coastline and enjoying their favorite fishing spots.
This year, however, their walks were cut short by big drop offs and missing sand.
"You used to be able to walk all the way down past the coral and everything. Now you can't even get down there," said Del Clough.
"That will be a nice surprise for us next year, to see how far we can walk," Debbie added.