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Sarasota Judge sides with Siesta in latest round of Lido sand battle

STEVE REID
Editor & Publisher
sreid@lbknews.com

The ongoing struggle for residents of Lido Key and the City of Sarasota to dredge sand from Big Pass to Lido’s eroded shoreline ran into a snag last week.

Circuit Court Judge Andrea McHugh on Feb. 12 gave the City 20 days to argue why the court should not force the City to explain how the sand project is consistent with its own and regional regulations.

In short, the battle over the sand and the opposition to the plan to dredge Big Pass has been spearheaded by the Siesta Key Association. That Association is comprised mainly of residents and business owners on Siesta Key who claim that dredging the Pass will damage navigation as well as alter and potentially harm their beaches.

The project centers on a plan that the City and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dredge up to 1.3 million cubic yards of sand from Big Pass, and renourish a 1.6-mile stretch of highly-eroded south Lido Key beach.

The Siesta Key Association argued last year and in January, that the City needed to obtain approval from the Sarasota County Commission due to mandates in both the City and County’s Comprehensive Plans. The Judge in the previous hearings dismissed elements of the suit, but the Siesta Key Association amended the complaints.

The City has 20 days to “show cause” why the Judge should not make the City undertake an official determination that the project is consistent with the City, County, State and Federal plans and regulations.

Lido Key has experienced erosion so severe, that property was threatened in 2018 and an emergency renourishment project utilizing sand from New Pass, has been underway since Dec. 2018.

In the two previous hearings, Judge McHugh did not side with the Siesta Key Association and dismissed their attempts to require the City to prove it was in compliance with County law.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) has already issued a permit to the City and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the project.

Much of the dilemma and debate revolves around whether the City is or will be required to seek and show compliance with the County’s Comprehensive Plan. In its response, the City will present its case.

The City wants to start the project in September 2019, and finish the renourishment before June 2020. The first phase is to take 950,000 cubic yards from Big Pass. Subsequent renourishment projects would occur about every five years, with monitoring, and consist of about 500,000 cubic yards each.

The City is not alone in defending against the actions of the Siesta Key Association. For its part, the Lido Key Association, which consists of property owners and business owners in support of the project, has intervened and is assisting as a defendant.

On another front, the organization Save Our Siesta Sands II, filed a lawsuit in January in Federal Court against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers saying it failed to conclusively study the dredging impact on Siesta Key. Save Our Siesta Sands II is another Siesta Key organization contesting the project.

Longboat Key News

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