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Sarasota Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019 1 week ago

City, county discuss staging for Big Pass dredge

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The County Commission endorsed a plan to use Ted Sperling Park during the Lido Key renourishment project — but pushed for protections in case the project goes awry.
by: David Conway Deputy Managing Editor

As they advance plans to renourish Lido Key with sand dredged from Big Pass, the city and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have attempted to gain the county’s permission to use a portion of Ted Sperling Park at South Lido Beach as a staging area for the construction.

At Monday’s City Commission meeting, City Manager Tom Barwin said the Army Corps has been clear to say the project would incur significant expenses if crews could not access the county-owned property.  

“The corps did meet with [the county] and was quite candid that the cost was likely to be $1 million,” Barwin said. “Of course, nobody has volunteered to pay that difference just yet.”

Today, acknowledging the potential cost savings, the County Commission voted 4-1 to authorize staff to negotiate an agreement with the city on the use of Ted Sperling Park. The vote came with a caveat, however: The County Commission wanted some avenue of protection if the dredging project had a negative effect on south Lido Key or Siesta Key.

“What if this doesn’t go well?” County Commissioner Mike Moran said. “What are the recourses in this for the taxpayers we represent?”

The commission’s conversation focused specifically on the inclusion of two sand-retaining groins in the Lido renourishment project. Commissioner Charles Hines advocated for a provision in an agreement with the city that would give the county the authority to force the city to make adjustments to the project if it turned out the dredging project had negative effects on the shorelines to the south.

City Engineer Alex DavisShaw, in attendance at today’s County Commission meeting, noted the project permit already requires the city to monitor the effects of the project and make modifications if problems arise.

“Our whole goal is to make sure that key and both keys are functioning the best they can,” DavisShaw said.

Commissioner Al Maio, who represents the district containing Siesta Key, was the lone dissenting vote.

For years, the Lido renourishment project has been a source of concern for some residents, particularly those on Siesta Key who fear the first-ever dredging of Big Pass could be detrimental to the barrier island. Despite objections and legal challenges from Siesta residents, the project has gained necessary approvals from the state, and the city hopes the dredging could begin early next year.

Two lawsuits challenging the project are still outstanding: one in the state’s Second District Court of Appeal and another in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

County commissioners said they did not want to get involved with the legal battle or comment on the merits of the project specifically. But if the city and Army Corps were determined to move forward, the board did not want to be responsible for making the project more expensive.

“When it comes to the staging area, it just seems like an unnecessary barrier or burden we’re putting in place,” County Commissioner Christian Ziegler said.

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