Judge says Lido sand project should proceed

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In a major victory for Lido Key residents and the City of Sarasota, Administrative Law Judge Bram Canter ordered that the plan to dredge Big Sarasota Pass and renourish a 1.6-mile stretch of south Lido Key Beach should move forward.

The City of Sarasota has sought the renourishment project to shore up Lido Beach and protect its infrastructure on Lido Key.

City Manager Tom Barwin called the ruling by Canter “a significant decision” and was based on fact, research and evidence that recycling limited amounts of accreted sand from Big Pass will not negatively impact Siesta Key and may actually help it.

Barwin urged those opposed to the plan to stop litigation.

Barwin is primarily alluding to the organization Save Our Siesta Sand 2 and the Siesta Key Association, both challenged the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s intent to permit the project.

The two organizations have hired expert witnesses, engineers and attorneys to fight the dredging that the opposition fears could have an eventual negative impact on the Siesta Key shoreline.

Judge Canter did in his order modify the allowed amount of sand to be dredged to allow the removal of up to 1.3 million cubic yards and no more. Canter sought to clear up ambiguities in the permit that may have allowed for up to 1.7 million cubic yards.

Canter also prohibited dredging from certain parts of the Pass from April through September to protect the spawning Spotted Sea Trout.

Barwin said that the City as the applicant accepts the modifications.

Barwin says the City will monitor the project for any adverse impacts on Siesta or any other unforeseen impacts.

The Judge flawed the opposition’s arguments in his ruling due to a lack of any studies or fieldwork supporting their claims of potential adverse impacts to fish and wildlife as well as any substantiation of their claims of the project negatively impacting Siesta Key’s shoreline.

For Lido Key business owners and residents, the decision brings closer much-needed relief to the severe erosion that has decimated their shorelines. In fact, the FDEP has designated 2.4 of Lido Key’s 2.6 mile-long shoreline “critically eroded.”

The Lido Key Residents Association as well as numerous business and hotel operators hope the opposition will not challenge the decision made by Canter last week. The opposition has 15 days from when the recommended order was entered to file what is called an “exception” to findings of fact and conclusions of law.

Ultimately, the FDEP Secretary, Noah Valenstein, makes the final decision on issuing the permit.

The permit, if issued, would allow dredging every five years to place sand on Lido as well as two groins placed on South Lido Beach to anchor the sand.

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