By Rachel Brown Hackney
Research undertaken by leaders of the Siesta Key Association (SKA) this summer found county property that appeared to be within an area of Big Sarasota Pass targeted for sand removal for the long-term Lido Renourishment Project.
SKA Vice President shared with Siesta Sand an Oct. 25 email that she received from Matt Osterhoudt, director of the county’s Planning and Development Services Department, in response to the SKA’s question about that property, known as Sand Dollar Key.
Osterhoudt wrote that it “is located outside of the proposed [dredging] project limits.”
However, Luckner pointed out that SKA has more questions that county staff has yet to answer.
For example, she continued, based on information the SKA has received, the City of Sarasota has yet to submit a request to Sarasota County for use of the county’s Ted Sperling Park — on the southernmost portion of Lido Key — as a staging area for the renourishment project. Along with the placement of new sand, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) intends to construct two groins on South Lido to try to keep sand in place between renourishment initiatives, which it has estimated will be necessary every five years. The USACE and the city were co-applicants for the permit from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) for the dredging of sand from Big Pass for Lido.
Luckner noted that the County Commission did send a letter to FDEP, during the permitting process, stating that the county expected a formal request from the city for use of county property before FDEP issued the permit.
Dated Aug. 24, 2016 and signed by then-Commission Chair Alan Maio, the letter was sent to Gregory Garis, who was overseeing the Lido permit application process for FDEP.
Maio noted that FDEP had received materials from the USACE on Aug. 1, 2016, in response to the department’s second Request for Additional Information (RAI2) about the project, as proposed.
With that USACE submittal, Maio wrote, the issue of the staging area had come to the county’s attention. “Neither the [USACE] nor the City of Sarasota has contacted the County to seek authorization for this use,” Maio continued. “It is the County’s expectation that the FDEP evaluation of the materials submitted on August 1, 2016 will include a requirement for the [USACE] or City of Sarasota to obtain authorization for such use prior to moving the submittal for the Joint Coastal Permit forward in the review process,” Maio added.
“Both the construction staging area and project design, including groin structures north of Ted Sperling Park at South Lido Beach, pose possible near and long-term impacts to the operations, maintenance, and management of the park,” Maio pointed out.
Catherine Luckner and her husband, Robert, a member of the SKA’s Environmental Committee, have spent a considerable amount of time reviewing documents in the FDEP folder on the Lido project since the USACE submitted the application for the permit in March 2015. FDEP formally issued the permit on June 18.
A search of the FDEP files for the Joint Coastal Permit found no indication that the city or the USACE sent a letter of request to the county regarding the use of Sperling Park. When SNL asked county staff whether it had any documentation of such a communication, Media Relations Specialist Brianne Grant wrote in an email, “As … Nov. 1, 2018, Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources has not received any requests (formal or informal) from the City of Sarasota for the use of Ted Sperling at South Lido Beach (County-owned property) for staging equipment for the upcoming coastal enhancement.”
Recently, Catherine Luckner also provided a copy of a USACE graphic submitted to FDEP in 2016, as part of the RAI2 exchanges with FDEP. It shows the 500-foot boundary around the proposed sand borrow areas and the parcels within that boundary. All owners of those parcels had to be notified of the USACE project plans, according to state law, she pointed out. Yet, when she and Robert Luckner researched the list of recipients of the notifications, the county was not among them — in spite of the fact that Ted Sperling Park clearly is within the notification area.
Catherine Luckner wrote Osterhoudt in an Oct. 25 email that that information might be “of interest for you.”