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Big Sarasota Pass
Sarasota Monday, Jul. 6, 2020 2 months ago

Federal judge denies request to block Lido Key renourishment

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The U.S. District Court decision represents the latest in a series of failed efforts from Siesta Key residents to halt the dredging of Big Pass.
by: David Conway Deputy Managing Editor

A federal judge today denied an emergency request to halt a Lido Key renourishment project scheduled to begin this week, stating the legal filing from a Siesta Key group lacked merit and contained procedural deficiencies.

Steven Merryday, a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, issued a six-page order denying Save our Siesta Sands 2’s request for a temporary restraining order blocking the dredging of Big Pass. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and city of Sarasota are working jointly on a project to renourish the Lido shoreline with sand taken from Big Pass.

Merryday wrote that, although SOSS2 first filed a federal lawsuit against the Army Corps in January 2019, the group did not request a preliminary injunction against the dredging as the project team solicited bids and awarded a contract for construction. Instead, the group filed a motion for a temporary restraining order three business days before construction was scheduled to begin, claiming an emergency warranted halting the project without conducting a hearing.

“The absence of an explanation for this tardiness suggests either an inexplicable obliviousness or a calculated attempt to secure by force a delay of the project,” Merryday wrote.

Merryday said a temporary restraining order blocking the dredging would only be warranted if holding a hearing were impractical, but it does not constitute an emergency if one party unreasonably delays its efforts to intervene. Merryday said the circumstances in this case “compel the conclusion that the reported ‘emergency‘ is primarily SOSS2’s own creation.”

Merryday said SOSS2’s filing makes inconsistent requests for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction. The judge’s order also denies the motion for a preliminary injunction blocking the project until SOSS2‘s federal lawsuit is settled, stating the group’s case is unlikely to succeed. Merryday said an injunction “subjects the Army Corps to extensive, ongoing and unnecessary expense,” and SOSS2’s filing fails to describe how the group would be subject to greater harm if the project were allowed to proceed.

Today’s decision is the latest in a series of failed procedural maneuvers from Siesta Key residents hoping to block the dredging of Big Pass. When plans for the project were announced in 2013, Siesta Key groups expressed concern the first-ever dredging of Big Pass could negatively affect the coastal environment to the south.

In 2018, after receiving a petition from the Siesta Key Association, an administrative judge recommended issuing permits for the project. A 12th Judicial Circuit Court judge rejected the Siesta Key Association's efforts to challenge the project three times in 2018 and 2019.

Two legal challenges against the project remain outstanding: SOSS2’s federal lawsuit, and the Siesta Key Association’s appellate court case. Last month, city staff said it did not believe those cases would affect plans for the Lido renourishment.

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