Despite the outspoken opposition of Siesta Key residents and concerns of county officials, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection intends to issue a permit for a proposed project to dredge Big Pass, according to a document on the state agency’s website.
The project, backed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and city of Sarasota, would renourish 1.6 miles of the Lido Key shoreline with sand from Big Pass. The pass has not been dredged before, and opponents of the project have raised concerns about the environmental impact of the proposal.
At a Nov. 30 workshop, state officials signaled their belief those fears were unfounded.
“In my opinion, the concerns the residents on Siesta Key have raised have been answered by the work reported in the package the Army Corps submitted,” said Bob Brantly, a FDEP engineer.
The FDEP posted a notice regarding its intent to issue the permit online today. There is a 14-day window in which individuals can file an application for an administrative hearing challenging the agency’s decision.
“The applicant has provided adequate engineering data to demonstrate that the proposed project has been designed to improve shoreline stability and storm protection of the Lido Key beaches, while minimizing the potential for adverse impacts to the south end of Lido Key, Big Sarasota Pass, and Siesta Key,” the notice of intent states.
Peter van Roekens, the leader of the activist group Save our Siesta Sand 2, announced his plans to contest the state ruling immediately following the Nov. 30 workshop. Opponents of the project on Siesta have suggested the project could negatively affect the barrier island’s shoreline.
Today, van Roekens reiterated his group’s commitment to fighting the project.
“We will challenge,” he said. “And I know they’re expecting that challenge.”
City leaders and Lido Key residents have called the project an essential step toward protecting critically eroded segments of the Lido shoreline. Lido Key Residents Association President Carl Shoffstall said the group is evaluating its options for ensuring the proposal continues to move forward.
“We don’t want to get into a war with Siesta,” Shoffstall said. “But we’ve got to protect our assets out there.”
In a statement today, City Manager Tom Barwin expressed confidence the project would benefit Lido without harming Siesta.
“The science and technology which has been committed to the project, along with the monitoring which we have committed to, virtually assures the public that no harm will come from this critical public safety project,” Barwin wrote. “As all local citizens know, Lido is in a precarious situation and just one tropical storm or one season away from serious property and infrastructure damage.”
The city and Army Corps still need to officially obtain a permit and secure federal funding for the project before it can move forward. The project is expected to initially use up to 1.3 million cubic yards of sand to renourish Lido Key, with a 50-year plan to replenish the Lido shoreline with sand from Big Pass and New Pass. The city and Army Corps will be required to monitor the impact of the project before future borrow efforts are approved.
More documents related to the project can be found on the FDEP website.
This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.