Vol. 8 No. 29 - April 9, 2008


Fuel spill averted as barge runs aground
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

its barge loaded with fuel oil sit grounded in the Gulf approximately
three miles east of Egmont Key. It was refloated last Friday with
no fuel spilled after the Coast Guard had a contractor empty the barge
into anothet tanker.

A barge carrying approximately 20,000 barrels of diesel fuel was re-floated last Friday around 5:15 p.m. after grounding on Wednesday, April 2, around 5:45 p.m. three miles west of Egmont Key. No fuel was lost in the incident.

The tug Yankee, which was hauling the barge, also grounded in the shallow Gulf waters near the mouth of Tampa Bay, according to a U.S. Coast Guard news release. When the barge first grounded, the Coast Guard flew an HC 130 over the site to check for pollution. It appeared that the double hull on the barge held and no fuel was lost into the Gulf.

An attempt to pull the barge off the bottom at high tide Wednesday was unsuccessful and on Friday, a tug and barge from Bouchard Transportation Company arrived. Crew members began transferring the fuel oil at 2:10 p.m., and after transferring approximately 20,000 barrels of the fuel oil, the grounded barge was refloated. Bouchard's barge continued to the Weeden Island Power Plant in St. Petersburg, where the original crafts were headed, to offload the fuel oil.

"While not a routine event, the grounding of a large vessel is an event we and our partner agencies plan for and train for," said Capt. Joseph A. Servidio, captain of the Port of Tampa. "This joint response demonstrates the benefits of that planning and training."

No injuries were reported.

"We would like to thank the Coast Guard, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Bouchard Transportation Company and everyone else who has worked so hard alongside us to safely re-float our barge," said Richard P. Falcinelli, vice president of K-Sea Transportation Partners L.P., owners of the barge and tug.

Drug and alcohol tests of the crewmembers involved in the casualty were conducted. The cause of the incident is under Coast Guard investigation.

Homeowner seeks renourishment help
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Joan Dickinson said the beach used to go out 50 feet from her seawall.

ANNA MARIA – A homeowner on North Shore Drive has formally asked Florida Rep. Bill Galvano for help in getting property beyond a federal marker declared eligible for state renourishment funding.

Joan Dickinson said she is still trying to get Manatee County to consider including land from Bean Point to the Rod and Reel Pier in an upcoming renourishment because the beach behind their properties has been eroded and is close to their back doors.

Dickinson told Galvano that she knew Anna Maria Mayor Fran Barford was seeking to meet with him and she would like to be a part of that meeting, along with Manatee County Conservation Lands Management Director Charlie Hunsicker, who oversees beach renourishment, city commissioners and active citizens like Ed Chiles.

During an informational meeting between Hunsicker and Anna Maria residents in February, Dickinson questioned the location of a benchmark on the map that delineated what was considered Gulffront land and what was bayfront, which would not be eligible for state or federal renourishment funding. She spoke of a map that the city once had in its possession that showed the land all the way north to the Rod and Reel Pier was Gulffront. She is still trying to find the map, which she said former Mayor SueLynn had also seen.

"I would like to get all the data and all the players together," she said.

Hunsicker sent an inquiry to Florida Department of Environmental Protection Bureau of Beaches and Coastal Systems Project Manager Catherine Florko, who responded by saying there might be a way to include the properties if they were badly eroded. She noted that she had seen the properties and they were indeed eroded.

However, Florko sent Hunsicker another memo a few weeks later saying she had checked with other officials in her office who said it might not be possible since the state could not pay to renourish land that is not Gulffront.

Dickinson said she thinks the county commissioners believe that the north end of the Island does not contribute much to the county’s well-being, but they are wrong.

"You can’t just cut off the north end of the Island and say it’s not important," she said.

Cuts sink underwater archeology funding

CORTEZ – Budget cuts have affected operations at the Florida Maritime Museum, Cortez Heritage Park coordinator Roger Allen said.

A $30,000 grant request to inventory underwater artifacts around Manatee County was turned down by the state last week, and county funding to permanently replace the museum’s curator also is in question, he told the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage (FISH).

Former curator Jeff Moates, who left the museum in March, had been working on an underwater archeology project with Mote Marine Laboratory’s Dr. Coz Cozzi, a nautical archaeologist and the son-in-law of Dr. Eugenie Clark, founder of Cape Haze Marine Laboratory, Mote’s predecessor. They conducted a search for Angola, a reputed Black/Seminole settlement, exploring the Manatee River east of the DeSoto Bridge. While the settlement remains undiscovered, they found something unexpected - the remains of the Seaboard Airline Railroad bridge.

With the grant, they also intended to document historic local shipyards, including Fogarty, Sneads Island and Boca del Rio.

A county employee is expected to be temporarily transferred to replace Moates until the end of the year, Allen said, but funding beyond that is uncertain, and without the grant, the research project is stalled.

"We’re pretty disappointed," said Cathy Slusser, deputy director of the Division of Historical Resources for the Manatee County Clerk of Court, which oversees the museum. "Funding is bad in Tallahassee. Only five of 88 grants got funded for museums surveys, historic preservation and archeology."

County historical preservation officials will meet soon to discuss how to keep museum programs running, including soliciting donated materials, equipment and volunteers, she said.

"We’re not going to give up."

Facts, rumors at bridge meeting
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/TOM VAUGHT Manatee County Commission
Chairwoman Jane von Hahmann talks with environmental activist
Barbara Hines at the FDOT bridge meeting.

HOLMES BEACH – Several hundred people trickled through the St. Bernard Catholic Church Activity Center last Thursday to give their opinions and get information on their options for the future of the Anna Maria Island Bridge.

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is currently spending $9.1 million to refurbish the mechanical draw system, the electronics, the sidewalks and the pilings, which they expect will add 10 to 15 years to the life of the 51-year-old structure.

At the same time, FDOT is embarking on a study of the options when the drawbridge hits the end of its life. They have offered four options: rebuild the current bridge or replace it with one of three sizes of bridges – a drawbridge the same size as the current one, which measures about 21 feet from the water level to the bottom of the road structure at the middle; a drawbridge at 45 feet; or a fixed span at 75 feet high.

FDOT said it mailed approximately 5,500 questionnaires to residents of the Island and responses that were mailed back showed about 80 percent of the respondents wanted the 75-foot, fixed-span option.

FDOT Public Information Specialist Cindy Clemmons-Adente said that one rumor that they uncovered involved the number of lanes a new bridge would have.

"They think that it would have four lanes coming onto the Island," she said. "We can’t do that because a few years ago, we reclassified Gulf Drive as being constrained, which means it can’t take any additional traffic."

Clemmons-Adente said they had various responses to a replacement bridge and some people even brought another option.

"They wanted a new bridge from the mainland to Longboat Key," she said. "They felt that would take the load off Gulf Drive some."

That option was discussed 15 years ago when FDOT tried to replace the drawbridge with a tall, fixed span, but it was dropped after they held a charrette to discuss whether it was possible.

One question that some people had was whether 65 feet for the tall bridge is still adequate for the size of ships in these waters. U.S. Coast Guard Permits Specialist Randall Overton said that the regulations set the minimum at 65 feet, but it could be higher.

"We’re doing a survey of boat traffic at this time," he said. "If it shows a larger percentage than normal of ships that could not fit under 75 feet, we would then require a taller fixed-span bridge."

He said that if they replaced the current 21-foot-high drawbridge with a 45-foot-high draw, that extra height would reduce the number of times the bridge would have to be raised by 60 to 70 percent.

Nancy Deal, secretary of Save Anna Maria (SAM), the citizen’s action committee that successfully fought the fixed-span attempt 15 years ago, said that the meeting was very informative, but she is still against building a tall bridge to this small, laid-back Island.

"Why would you want to come off of a huge span to get here?" she asked. "When we chose to live here, the drawbridge was already here. Why change it and change the reason we want to live here?"

SAM Treasurer Carol Soustek said that FDOT has to consider what the people say in this meeting and in their questionnaires.

"Don’t change it," she said. "If you live here, you chose to live without fast-food restaurants and tall bridges."

FDOT will take questionnaires after the April 14 deadline. Those who did not get a questionnaire can write Chris Piazza, PE, FDOT, P.O. Box 1249, Bartow, FL 33831.

For information on the bridge rehabilitation and eventual replacement, FDOT has a Web site at www.annamariaislandbridge.com.

City deluged with Swiftmud requests

ANNA MARIA – The Southwest Florida Water Management District has advised the city that it requires more information before approving the city’s permit application for drainage improvements.

In late March, Project Manager Tom Wilcox answered Swfwmd’s 10-page, March 13 request for additional information, including how the proposed project would improve water quality and flood protection within the city; several specific questions on Gulf Drive; North Shore Drive and Crescent Drive drainage improvement plans and several issues regarding drainage on city hall property.

A subsequent letter requested additional information, which may result in increased engineering fees, Wilcox wrote Mayor Fran Barford on March 31.

Swfwmd wants two flood models created, one for existing drainage conditions and one for the proposed design, an unexpected, detailed requirement, according to Wilcox.

The city also may have to hire a geotechnical engineering firm to do soil testing in several locations to respond to the district’s questions regarding how fast water percolates into the ground after a rain.

"I suggest we halt the program until we have all the facts," said Jim Conoly of the city’s planning and zoning board, who has another concern about the project.

"My major concern is that not enough attention has been given to future operating costs of the drainage system," he wrote in a letter to Barford on March 31. "Not enough detail about the project is available to accurately forecast future money requirements. This lack of information makes it impossible to forecast future budget requirements."

The city commission will consider the issue at a work session on April 10 at 7 p.m. at city hall.

No vote for super majority vote

ANNA MARIA – After a lengthy discussion, the city’s charter review commission remains undecided on whether to recommend that a super majority vote of the city commission be required to change its comprehensive plan.

Requiring four of the five city commissioners to change the future land use element of the comprehensive plan would limit growth in Anna Maria to the density and intensity of use currently allowed, city Commissioner Dale Woodland told the charter review commission on Thursday night.

"We’re only trying to protect what we have now," Woodland said, referring to himself and Commissioners John Quam and Duke Miller, who have expressed their support in writing for requiring a super majority vote.

The super majority vote could prevent an Anna Maria version of the annexation of Perico Island property by the city of Bradenton and its resulting high-density development approval, according to Woodland.

"There isn’t a problem yet, but we’re trying to prevent one," he said, adding that the closest the Island has come to the problem was when business owners requested that the city approve three usable floors instead of the permitted two. "That wouldn’t be good for the quality of life in Anna Maria."

Chairman Tom Aposporos and member Norm Mansour suggested that the commission not take any action on the supermajority vote issue. Aposporos said that city attorney Jim Dye has recommended that a unanimous vote rather than a super majority vote be required to amend the comprehensive plan.

Member Suzanne Douglas made a motion to decline to propose an amendment to the city’s charter requiring a super majority vote for amendments to the comprehensive plan. She withdrew the motion after Woodland commented that it would be harder for the city commissioners who favor a super majority vote to gain support for the idea if the charter review commission passed such a motion.

"This is a one-way street," he said, with any changes to the comprehensive plan likely to relax restrictions rather than make them stronger.

The comprehensive plan was approved last month by the Florida Department of Community Affairs after years of extensive review.

The commission decided to consider the issue again at its April 28 meeting at city hall at 6:30 p.m.

In other business, the commission unanimously voted that after two public hearings and a vote of four of its five members, it must file any proposed amendments to the city’s charter with the city commission. The commission then must place the amendments on the ballot at the next general election to be decided by voters.

Commission members also voted that if no amendments are submitted to the voters, the city commission shall disband the charter review commission.

Money squeeze strangles outdoor fest

BRADENTON BEACH – The only summer festival held on the Island in recent years won’t be back.

The Florida Gulf Coast Sports Commission, which brings sporting events to the area, decided not to fund the annual event, according to Commission Chairman Joe Pickett, who organized the first two events.

The Outdoor Festival, which was held at Coquina Beach Bayside, promoted local outdoors activities such as kayaking, canoeing, fishing, eco tourism and other activities that are popular during the summer months. Pickett said he was sorry to see it go.

"Nobody’s more disappointed than I am," he said. "In the three years I have spent promoting sports, it and the Special Olympics were my proudest moments."

The event defied common logic that festivals were only viable during tourist season.

"We drew 5,000 people last year and this year I’m convinced we could have gotten 8,000 here," Pickett said. "I went to other events along the Gulf Coast that had been around a lot longer and they didn’t draw nearly as many people."

One of the event’s co-organizers was Karen Fraley, who operates Around the Bend Nature Tours.

"We needed financial support from the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (CVB) to keep it going," she said. "With upcoming budget cuts, they decided to spend more money on promotion and less on events."

Fraley said there was some talk of bringing it back next year, but at another venue such as Jigg’s Landing on the Braden River.

Bradenton Beach Programs and Projects Director Lisa Marie Phillips, whose goal is to promote eco-tourism in the city, was also disappointed.

"A lot of people looked forward to it," she said. "The county established it and now they’ve taken it away and that’s hard on the people who supported it."

As for the possibility of reviving it with private funds, all three agreed that it could be done, but it would take a lot of work, strong financial backing and it would have to be done in a hurry to hold it in June like the first two were held.

"You want to have it before the hottest months come," Fraley said. "It would take about $10,000 and they might be able to raise that if the vendors would get more aggressive in selling raffle tickets.

There are a lot of options that could be explored," she added. "We would need commitment from the vendors and a major sponsor or two."

Anyone interested might call Fraley at 794-8733 or Pickett at 224-7344.

Neurologist speaks on aging and the brain
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia and the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S.

ANNA MARIA – Aging is a natural process that involves changes in the brain and if you live a long life, you can expect these things to happen, Dr. Alan Grindal told his rapt audience recently.

Grindal was the final speaker in the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee’s Academy for Lifelong Learning’s speaker series, which kicked off in February. He spoke on age-related changes in the brain, including dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease, at the Island Community Center.

"There are three stage of decline," he explained. "Age-related memory impairment is those skills that we lose compared to younger people. These are normal aging changes.

"The second, mild cognitive impairment (MCI), represents people who have deviations compared to their own age. Finally, there’s dementia – a category we use to describe people whose dysfunction is such that it impairs their ability to carry out their daily tasks.

Decline in brain function

As we age, certain brain functions decline. These include:

• Autobiographical memory – remembering what we did yesterday and what we had for breakfast;

• Fluid intelligence – the ability to multitask and remember names;

• Working memory – the ability to hold a lot of facts in our head at one time;

• Loss of top down control – the ability to maintain attention on something and keep the superfluous information out of your head.

"As we age it takes more activation of the whole brain to do things," he said. "It takes longer to get the right answer. We tend to do what we know how to do well and are reluctant to try new ways."

What we retain fairly well is called our crystallized intelligence – our knowledge of facts, vocabulary, professional and personal expertise and ingrained skills such as playing the piano.

Factors that help slow the aging process are educational attainment, physical activity, intellectual challenges and social involvement.

Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease

"Dementia is when we start losing the skills we have that allow us to live a normal life – the ability to shop, to cook, to manage your finances," Grindal explained. "Memory has to be impaired in some way and there has to be impairment in other skill areas such as language or judgement."

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common cause of dementia. AD is the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. In 2000, there were 4.5 million people with AD and in 2050, that number is expected to increase to 13.2 million and it will be the leading cause of death.

Early symptoms of dementia that families notice are repeating stories, asking questions over and over and fumbling for words. Other warning signs include memory loss, loss of initiative, disorientation and changes in mood, behavior or personality.

To access this complete lecture and others on AD and the aging brain, go to www.sarasota.usf.edu/senioracademy and click on "the aging brain" or "video archive"

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