SKA Wins One for the Sea Turtles in Continuing Battle Against Big Pass Dredging
May 27, 2020 —
Siesta Key Association won a major victory to delay groin construction on Lido Key until after turtle nesting season as the association continues its active legal opposition to the remaining portions of the City’s plans to dredge Big Sarasota Pass. SKA believes the project’s use of Big Sarasota Pass sand instead of offshore sand is too large and lacks adequate protection for Siesta Key. The project lacks required Sarasota county zoning approvals which SKA is trying to enforce in State court.
Sea Turtle Nesting Protections Restored
On April 11th the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) responded to SKA’s request and restored the nesting sea turtle protections, required by the US fisheries and Wildlife Biological Opinion of 2018. These protections prohibit groin construction on Lido Beach between May 1 and November 11 of each year. Neither the City of Sarasota nor the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) appealed this revision. The USACE announced that groin construction will have to wait until at least January 2021.
The USACE awarded a contract on April 16, 2020, to a Virginia dredging contractor for the Lido project’s dredging and groin construction. The scope of work is currently hidden from the public, but on April 16th, SKA filed a Freedom of Information Request to obtain the project scope, details, and competitive bids. The USACE delayed responding due to COVID-19 related issues, but the details must be pubilicly disclosed to the FDEP before construction can start. USACE confirmed that the contract is for 25% less sand than the permit allows. Also, the contract now excludes the eastern 33% of Cut C through the middle of Big Sarasota Pass and the entire Cut B which is immediately off Sandy Hook and Sunset Beaches in North Siesta Key. SKA considers this a major victory.
Missing Pre-Construction Documents
The USACE still has not filed all required pre-construction documents with the FDEP. On April 22nd, SKA sent a list of 12 missing items to the FDEP. The FDEP responded that no construction can begin until all documents are on file and have undergone 15 days of FDEP review for completeness.
Appeal Brief Status
SKA awaits the City and Intervenor, Lido Key Residents Association, answer to its appeal brief. They could not meet the March 8th or April 8th deadlines for a response and were granted two additional 30-day extensions until June 8th due to COVID-19 issues. SKA filed its appeal brief with the Florida Second District Court of Appeals on February 6, 2020. This is an appeal of an SKA lawsuit against the City for not obtaining required zoning approval from the County to dredge the County regulated land in Big Sarasota Pass.