Longboat Key sand trucked in from Collier Co.

- The beach renourishment program on Longboat Key has begun, adding big yellow, sometimes noisy, trucks to daily life.

The sand, however, is coming from an unexpected place: The Immokalee mine in Collier County, more than 100 miles away. 

The $22 million project is partially paid for by residents of Longboat Key. The town also got funding from the state and tourism tax dollars.

Longboat Key officials spent time and money searching for good sand off shore, but didn't have any luck.

"You look at, do you go further away and pay more for the dredging and pumping and handling of the sand or do you haul it in by truck at a lower cost," asked town manager Dave Bullock.

Brining truckloads of sand is not a new idea, either. Other beach towns across the state have done it, but Longboat Key is the first in the Bay Area.

"Offshore here, we can get all the brown and gray shelly sand that we want, but it's not really what people want on the beach," said Bullock.

They found their payload at the Immokalee mine. Longboat Key's town manager said the mine's sand is perfect for the job.

"These sand mines have been developed where there is high quality sand. In our case, it is very white and the grain size is large enough that it won't wash away at the first time we have a storm," he said.

It'll take months to move all that sand. Up to 100 trucks, each hauling two loads of sand, will make the two and a half hour trip each day.

Most agree, it is well worth the effort.

"I'm hoping next year when I come, next April it will be a beautiful beach again," visitor Jim Patin said.

He vacations near the barrier island every year, but this year, his trip is happening just as the town starts the massive renourishment project.

"The last time I saw it, there were barges offshore and they were piping it in with big steel pipes," he said. "I see a lot of money. It is an expensive project."

The town hopes to have the trucking part of the renourishment finished by September. Crews will also dredge in sand to part off the beach starting in July.

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