TIERRA VERDE (FOX 13) - Tierra Verde's sand problems are compounding, and now have the full attention of Pinellas County officials.
Thursday, County Administrator Mark Woodard and County Commissioner John Morroni met with a committee of the Tierra Verde Community Association, in advance of a June meeting involving all seven county commissioners.
"Shell Key's completely closed off now, and it's not just a Shell Key issue now. It's moved into the Grand Canal," Association President Jerry Frulio told FOX 13 News.
"Certainly, we think they are related," Woodard conceded.
The original issue was the closing of the passage between Tierra Verde and the Shell Key Preserve.
The county commissioned a study of the probable source of the new sand last fall. Now, sand is stacking up in front of the new land bridge between the islands, restricting entry into Tierra Verde's Grand Canal.
That waterway is 350-feet wide and nearly a mile long, lined with some of the county's most expensive homes and at the north end, a new marina and resort complex is nearing completion.
The study is expected to take 18 months, although Woodard said the possibility of expediting it is being explored.
"When you're studying the migration of sand, you're putting data sensors out offshore, measuring currents, measuring wave actions and things like that," he explained. "So it does take some time."
That worries islanders.
"In 18 month,s what are we going to be left with?" Frulio pondered. "Are we all going to have to sell our boats and sailboats and get kayaks?"
Eventually, there could be another rub: Shell Key is an official wildlife sanctuary. The Grand Canal is a residential enclave.
"While we believe they're related, I think it's possible that the solutions could be different and the timing of those solutions could be different as well," Woodard told FOX 13 News.
Neither Woodard nor commissioner Morroni denied some of the intrusive sand may be from county beach renourishment projects. If so, the federal-state-county partnerships for those projects might have some obligation to correct unforeseen impacts.
"It all comes down to this: Funding," Frulio said. "Who's going to be responsible to pay for it?"