Gov. Charlie Crist approved a natural-gas pipeline project application Friday, Sept. 11 that affects Longboat Key’s beach-quality sand resources.
Port Dolphin’s proposed $1 billion natural-gas pipeline is slated to be situated 28 miles southwest of Tampa Bay near Anna Maria Island, right through the middle of sand used for the town’s future beach renourishments.
Town Manager Bruce St. Denis said that a memorandum of understanding reached between Port Dolphin, the Oslo, Norway,-based pipeline company, and the state reveals that the town must remove the sand affected in two of its permitted sand sites by June 2012.
“We are reasonably certain this can be accomplished,” said St. Denis, who was hoping the governor would extend the sand-removal timeline by an additional year.
However, if the town moves forward “with all deliberate speed but is not successful in removing sand by June of 2012,” Port Dolphin has agreed to either extend the town’s deadline by one year or reimburse the town for sand lost in those sites within a 400-foot corridor at a cost of $15 per cubic yard, up to a limit of $5 million.
As it stands, the agreement stipulates that the town will be reimbursed for actual cost of sand removed up to a limit of $5 million if it removes the sand by June 2012. And, the town will also be reimbursed for the cost of permitting the sand removal up to $500,000.
The news means that the town’s beach-wide renourishment project could be accelerated by one year and could begin in November 2012.
“This could make it less expensive to perform our beach project a year ahead of schedule,” St. Denis said.
St. Denis said the town will have to go to referenda in March 2011 to be funded for the 2.5 million cubic yards of sand needed for the beach project. The last renourishment project cost the town $22 million.
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.
In Crist’s Sept. 11 letter to the acting administrator of Maritime Administration in Washington, D.C., Crist states that the factors in making his decision included Florida’s energy needs and the need for alternate natural-gas supplies for the state.
The project, Crist noted, is capable of delivering 400 million standard cubic feet of natural gas per day and would eventually be capable of bringing 800 million standard cubic feet of natural gas per day.
Manatee County will also benefit from permitting and sand-removal costs for a renourishment project planned for Coquina Beach on Anna Maria Island.
Federal officials at the U.S. Department of Transportation will make a final decision on the project by Oct. 26.
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