Off Islands

| April 1, 2016

Source Longboat Key News

Summer dredging will remedy clogged New Pass Channel

New Pass Channel, which separates south Longboat from Lido Key, has always been known as ‘skinny water.’ As the channel enters the Gulf to the right is a large shoal that over the past year has expanded which has blocked safe passage in and out of New Pass.

The U.S. Coast Guard has warned boaters that it is no longer safely navigable and removed the six buoys that inform boaters how to safely navigate the waterway.

Town Manager Dave Bullock, under pressure from boaters and residents met with the Coast Guard, the City of Sarasota, and Manatee County Officials to talk about what can be done.

In short, the shoaling of the Pass occurred at the very time Longboat Key was having its permit to dredge New Pass considered by State Agencies and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The permit was recently approved and the town will soon award a bid for a contractor to dredge the channel 13 feet below sea level at a width of 150-250 feet. “Once we are done, the Channel will be navigable and then the Coast Guard will come in and evaluate if and where to ace navigation markers,” said Bullock. 

However, this permit places constraints and is akin to a building plan where the town’s contractor must dredge exactly as the engineers designed and the state and federal agencies allow. Ultimately, the Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for maintenance of the area channels, but in the case of New Pass the Town of Longboat Key and City of Sarasota have adopted the role of dredging in order to benefit from the potential beach sand. The agreement between the City and Longboat Key is to perform a dredging of New Pass as needed about every six years and Longboat and Sarasota will alternate taking responsibility and receiving the benefit of the sand. The sand from the upcoming dredging is of tantamount importance to provide immediate relief to the condominiums on the south end of Longboat Key that have experienced severe erosion and the complete loss of their recreational beach as well as protective sand dunes in some instances. After the dredging is completed, the city and town can evaluate the channel and if the city wishes to dredge more extensively, with the establishment of the channel in mind, it can plan that into the next scheduled dredging.

For recreational boaters, it marks the first time in decades that the New Pass Channel has become impassable. Boaters are now forced to either travel to Big Pass on the south end of Lido Key or travel 10 miles north of New Pass to Longboat Pass on the north end of Longboat Key to access the Gulf. Some residents have expressed dismay and concern that Longboat’s dredging project that will occur this summer will provide only a limited and temporary solution. Town officials have expressed concern that any attempt to alter that permit would only delay the opportunity to receive much needed sand

Longboat voters approve undergrounding

Voters made it clear on March 15: the neighborhoods of Longboat Key will be undergrounded.

A total of 2,061 Longboaters voted in support of undergrounding neighborhoods. About 400 less, 1,690 voted in opposition to undergrounding the power lines in neighborhoods. Sarasota voted overwhelmingly in favor of the measure with 1,550 voters supporting the plan and 974 voting against the measure. As for Manatee County, they did not support the proposal with 716 voters voting against the plan and 511 in support. The fact that Sarasota County has more than double the number of voters as Manatee County allowed the “Yes” vote to carry and pass the referendum question with the 54% margin of approval. The total turnout was very high for Longboat Key elections with 61.73% of the island’s registered voters participating.

The specific question voters said “Yes” to asked if the Town can issue bonds not to exceed $23.85 million to bury utilities and add fiber optic cable within the Key’s neighborhoods and side streets, the addition of the dark fiber optic cable will be buried along with the utility lines and will be run also to every home and condominium that already has undergrounded utilities. Town Manager, Dave Bullock said with a positive vote every overhead line on Gulf of Mexico Drive and on every side street and property will be buried within five years.

Voters last November approved burying power lines on Gulf of Mexico Drive and the approval now allows the expansion of that project to include the rest of the Key. Each parcel of property on Longboat Key will pay an assessment toward the project that has been calculated by the town based on a method that measures the general and specific benefit each property receives. The specific cost will depend on bond rates and whether a property owner wishes to pay up front or to have the cost amortized over 30 years. The estimated assessment can be found at the Town’s website, www.longboatkey.org

The next step is the Town will use surveyors to map the entire project. Then, FPL will design the system and all of its elements and provide a cost as if they were to provide the work. Then, the project will go out to bid, using the specs specifically stated by FPL.

 

peacockVillager attacks peacock progress as mating heats up

Longboat Key Village resident James Braha is frustrated that the company hired by the town to thin the peacock herd is underperforming, losing a critical window to remove the female birds before they go into hiding to lay their 7-15 eggs. “I wrote to you twice in January to urge that the trappers come out before mating season for five days a week to get the job done. I was told we have to let the trappers do their job as they see fit,” said Braha.

The program is to remove all peacocks except for 12 males and to pay the trapping company $175 for each bird removed. Braha says that instead of coming to the Village on a daily basis, all the company has done is place one trap on Fox Street.

Braha said that he had been involved in dealing with the peacock issue in 2011, when trappers were only paid $30 per bird. “The peacocks are on Fox Street every day and could be caught if only the trappers would spend more time at it. At $175 per bird, it is their duty to do so. “

Town Manager, Dave Bulllock told Longboat Key News that he does not dispute Braha’s statements, but he is not personally knowledgeable about the reproductive cycle of the peacock flock.

“That being said, I would like them to catch more birds in a shorter period of time.” Thus far 19 peacocks have been relocated by the company, (at the time of press ) while the flock has an estimated population of over 100 birds..

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