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Longboat Key Monday, May 31, 2021 1 week ago

Longboat Key considering other options after FDEP rejects wet well lining project

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The town is now proposing an $180,000 Bayfront Park shoreline study.
by: Mark Bergin Staff Writer

The town of Longboat Key proposed two environmental projects to the state to fulfill its consent order after the June 2020 sewage break.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection accepted the town’s plan to replace an existing 2006 backup generator at Master Lift Station D but rejected the town’s plan for a wet-well lining project.

“They said that it was routine maintenance,” Town Manager Tom Harmer said about the proposed wet well lining project. “They looked at it said, ‘Sure, it’s a good thing to do that, but you probably should do that anyway and therefore, we’re going to consider [it] routine maintenance.”

Harmer said the town considered appealing but instead, the town is now proposing a $180,000 partnership with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to examine four styles of shoreline improvements using Bayfront Park as a test area pilot study. The town would contribute about $160,000 towards the project while the FWC and others would pay for the remaining $20,000.

Public Works Director Isaac Brownman said the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program has expressed interest in joining as a partner if the town pursues the Bayfront Park shoreline study. The project would take about three years, and it can be funded in fiscal year 2022 using the general fund contingency money.

The town is also planning to spend $22,000 to install new electromagnetic flow meters at Master Lift Station D.

Both the wastewater flow meters and the Bayfront Park study are subject to FDEP approval. Brownman said the town expects to receive state approval no later than Aug. 31.

“They’ve been very quick to respond, so we would expect an approval to occur prior to that,” Brownman said.

It will cost $100,000 to replace the generator at Master Lift Station D, which is located on Gulf Bay Road.

The combined total of $282,000 would edge past the $281,073 required in environmental projects to fulfill the FDEP consent order. In February, the Town Commission voted unanimously in favor of pursuing environmental projects to fulfill the state’s consent order instead of paying the civil penalties and costs.

The town is required to complete the environmental projects within 180 days of approval or based on whether the FDEP grants the town more time.

If the FDEP does not approve the projects Longboat Key proposes, the town is responsible for paying the state $188,382 in civil penalties and costs.

Harmer and Brownman are planning to speak with the FDEP about the possibility of pursuing other utility infrastructure projects.

“We have some other quote, un-quote, shovel-ready projects that we would like to talk to them about that would enhance our utility infrastructure,” Brownman said.

Harmer and Brownman are still sorting out what specific projects the state would consider accepting. However, Brownman said it will not include possible improvements to Quick Point Nature Preserve, a project too complex and likely expensive to consider presently.

“We’re not really proposing that to the FDEP because that is such a…there are several years worth of work that would need to happen,” Brownman said. “[It includes] feasibility type work, environmental mitigation analysis type work.”

Brownman said a project to finish the loop at Quick Point Nature Preserve would have a “significant price tag.”

Several residents and Suncoast Waterkeeper leaders have suggested a project to improve the Quick Point area.

Even though the wet well lining project does not fulfill the state’s criteria for the consent order, Harmer said the town would still plan on pursuing the project.

“We still think it’s a best practice to do, so we’re going to look at trying to do that project regardless,” Harmer said.

 

Mark Bergin is the Longboat Key Town Hall reporter for the Observer. He has previously worked as a senior digital producer at WTSP, the CBS affiliate in St. Petersburg. Mark is a graduate of the University of Missouri and grew up in the Chicagoland area.

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