SKA Continues to Oppose Dredging Big Sarasota Pass
April 17, 2020 —
Siesta Key Association continues its active legal opposition to the remaining portions of the City’s plans to dredge Big Sarasota Pass. The Association believes the project’s use of Big Sarasota Pass sand instead of offshore sand is too large, and lacks adequate protection of Siesta Key and sea turtles. SKA discovered the Florida Department of Environments Protection (FDEP) Joint Coastal Permit was inappropriately administratively modified on February 28, 2020.
Siesta Key Association filed its appeal brief with the Florida Second District Court of Appeals on February 6, 2020. The SKA Second District Court appeal noted the 12th Circuit failed to note that the City had failed to obtain a permit from “appropriate governmental authorities or agencies”. This specifically includes Sarasota County’s Joint Development Code, i.e., the WNCA law. The portions of Big Sarasota Pass to be dredged are outside of the City limits but under the jurisdiction of Sarasota County.
The City and Intervener, Lido Key Residents Association, could not meet the March 6, deadline for a response and was granted a 30-day extension. The City has recently requested yet another 30-day extension.
The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) rebid the construction contract on December 17, 2019 using a 25% smaller volume of sand to try to reduce costs. It continued to eliminate any dredging of the eastern 1/3 of the cut through the middle of the pass due the presence of seabed buried water and electricity lines. It also dropped the dredging of the existing natural boat channel off ‘Sandy Hook’ area of northwest Siesta Key due to the presence of spotted seatrout during the summer. After a protracted negotiation with the County to use Ted Sperling Park as a construction staging site with additional legal restrictions, the USACE rejected the site. The USACE made an ‘end run’ of the bidding process and instead awarded the contract to a private company as a change order to an existing East Coast contract. No details on the contract have been reported.
SKA believes that the sand volume remains 17% too large. SKA supports the elimination of dredging off Sandy Hook now and in subsequent dredges
SKA also asked for FDEP to reconsider the February 28, 2020 Joint Coastal Permit modification. SKA objected to reduction of turtle nesting protections required by the 2016 US Fisheries and Wildlife Service Biological Opinion. A decision is expected the week of April 6, 2020.