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Challenges mount against Big Pass dredge permit

Siesta residents and others are challenging the state’s initial approval of a proposed Lido Key renourishment effort, while Lido residents are preparing to defend the project.

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  • | 3:54 p.m. January 10, 2017
The proposed dredging of Big Pass is a long-standing point of tension between Lido and Siesta keys.
The proposed dredging of Big Pass is a long-standing point of tension between Lido and Siesta keys.
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A key decision from the Florida Department of Environmental protection has done little to quell the ongoing dispute between Lido Key and Siesta Key residents over the proposed dredging of Big Pass.

The Siesta Key Association, Save our Siesta Sand 2 and the Florida Wildlife Federation are all asking the state to reconsider its initial approval of the dredging, part of a project that would renourish eroded portions of the Lido shoreline. The FDEP announced its intent to issue a permit for the dredging Dec. 22.

SKA, which represents Siesta Key residents, is the latest group to announce its intent to challenge the FDEP decision. On Wednesday, the association announced it had retained the services of Tallahassee-based law firm Hopping Green & Sams to assist the opposition effort.

Catherine Luckner, an SKA board member, said the appeal focuses mostly on procedural issues. Siesta Key residents have expressed concern the project will negatively impact the Siesta shoreline. Luckner believes the city and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who are behind the dredging proposal, have not adequately answered questions regarding the project’s impact — and the FDEP hasn’t thoroughly investigated those issues.

“I don’t feel assured,” Luckner said. “I don’t feel there’s going to be a remedy.”

Today, the County Commission declined to file a challenge to the initial FDEP approval before a Jan. 17 deadline. Luckner was disappointed by that decision, but said SKA is not banking all of its hopes on getting the state to reverse its ruling following these appeals.

“This is truly, in our minds, not an emergency,” Luckner said. “It’s just a process we’ve got to go through — and it doesn’t stop (the county) from joining in at some point if it looks like they have to.”

The neighborhood group has formed a Siesta Key Environmental Defense Fund, a long-term fundraising effort to address environmental issues on the barrier island. On Lido Key, a different fundraising effort is underway — one focused on combatting the appeals from Siesta residents.

The Lido Key Residents Association is in the process of retaining its own legal representation as the review of the Big Pass project continues. The group anticipates it will need to raise at least $60,000 to cover legal expenses, and is asking residents to contribute toward that cause.

“Now is the time for action to be taken to save our beach,” LKRA President Carl Shoffstall wrote in a letter to residents.


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