By Peter van Roekens
In the early 90’s there was a proposal to take sand from Big Pass for Venice. There was overwhelming opposition by residents including a lawsuit by Siesta Key Association to block the permitting by DEP. It is no wonder that this project was not approved. Then the City of Sarasota decided to dredge Big Pass in 1998 but backed off based on outcry from citizens. But they have come back again! You might have expected that their current plan which is based on material gathered in 2002 and updated in 2004 would have had a more recent update. You also might think that this latest plan to dredge Big Pass would have had a public review by now. Neither has happened so far.
The Corps claims the current plan is based on the Inlet Management Plan (IMP) that was done in 2008. Although the current plan has not been peer reviewed, the IMP was. In April 2009 the Peer Review said, “However, the technical deficiencies forced an inconsistent application of the effort for evaluating alternatives and precluded reviewers from fully supporting the results and they do not support reliance on the information as a decision making tool for the IMP. The reviewers also emphasize that sediment transport modeling is a difficult task and there is no existing tool which can currently provide results without a considerable margin of error. The reviewers do give credit to CTC’s efforts recognizing the difficulty of their work and the current state of this science and technology.” In other words, do not base any actual work plans on this IMP. They go on to list a series of deficiencies with the IMP.
The Corps is keeping their detailed plans close to the vest. The Preliminary Design Report, the Modeling Report with model details and results and the Alternative Analysis Report were promised last fall and they have slipped on a monthly basis and currently are scheduled for late April. Further, the Corps had agreed to participate in a Tiger Bay debate as well as in a discussion on a local radio station. They have backed out of both and perhaps this is just as well for what we have seen so far is not what I consider quality work. None of this gives one a sense of a well-planned project that has crisp deliverables.
Just consider what they are saying to see if it passes the common sense test. They are saying that they will take 1.1 million cubic yards of sand from Big Pass and put it on Lido Beach. They claim this will not negatively affect Siesta Key Beaches or navigation in Big Pass. Does this sound too good to be true? Can you imagine removing so much sand from Big Pass that you could bury the entire Empire State building in the hole except perhaps for the antenna and the top couple of floors?
It is hard to believe that this plan to dredge Big Pass for the first time will have only benefits and no negatives. That is one reason why the Siesta Key Association, the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce, the Siesta Key Condominium Council and the Bay Island Association have all oppose this dredge and you should as well! Write to your Commissioners at Commissioners@scgov.net and let them know what you think.