The town of Longboat Key is asking for Gov. Charlie Crist’s help in resolving one last issue Town Manager Bruce St. Denis has with a pipeline company’s offer to financially help with removing beach-quality sand from the bottom of the Gulf before a natural-gas pipeline is laid on top of it.
In a letter sent to the governor’s office Thursday, Sept. 10 that’s signed by Mayor Lee Rothenberg, the town states it still “has significant problems with a proposed state permit for the Port Dolphin project,” despite the best efforts of state officials to resolve them.
St. Denis has stated the town will support Port Dolphin’s proposed $1 billion natural-gas pipeline 28 miles southwest of Tampa Bay near Anna Maria Island, as long as that sand is removed first.
But the mayor’s letter reveals that a proposed memorandum of agreement between the state and the town stipulates the town must remove any sand it plans on using from two of its already permitted borrow sites before the pipeline is laid.
And, any sand the town would like to use in those areas would have to be removed by June 2012.
Although St. Denis said he hopes the town can remove the sand from those areas for its 2013 island-wide beach renourishment project, he would like an additional year to make sure it can be done.
Under the state’s current proposal, the town will lose rights to the sand if it doesn’t comply by the June 2012 deadline.
In its letter, the town proposes the governor require that the deadline be extended to June 2013.
And, if that can’t be accomplished, the town is asking for $5 million in compensation from Port Dolphin, which St. Denis said will offset the costs associated with finding sand in other borrow sites further away from the shore.
Said St. Denis: “If we are precluded from going after the sand because of the June 2012 deadline, then we are asking the governor to either make them (Port Dolphin) extend the schedule or pay us as if we are taking the sand out because it will cost 25 to 40 cents more per mile to get sand that’s five miles farther away.”
If the governor agrees with the town’s addendum to the state’s proposal, St. Denis said the town’s beach-wide renourishment project could be accelerated by one year and could begin in November 2012.
“In that scenario, which accelerates our project, it could make it less expensive to perform our beach project a year ahead of schedule,” St. Denis said.
The town manager said the state has been working with the town to resolve its issues because the Florida Department of Environmental Protection agrees that a pipeline cannot be placed over valuable sand that could be used to restore and protect state beaches.
St. Denis said he does not know how much sand is available in the town’s two borrow sites because the town’s beach engineer has not yet been able to calculate how many cubic yards of sand exist there.
And, Port Dolphin, St. Denis said, has been unwilling to share its data, which shows exactly how much beach-quality sand exists under its proposed pipeline route.
Crist has until Friday, Sept. 11 to make a decision on the pipeline proposal, as well as the town’s proposal addendum. Federal officials will then make a final decision on the project by Oct. 26.
St. Denis said he hopes to receive a call tomorrow regarding the governor’s decision.
For more information regarding Crist's decision, visit www.yourobserver.com Friday, Sept. 11 for real-time updates.
Contact Kurt Schultheis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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