Vol. 8 No. 35 - May 21, 2008

headlines


Pipeline placement talks ongoing

PORT MANATEE – Representatives of Port Manatee and Port Dolphin are negotiating over the placement of a controversial proposed natural gas pipeline, according to Manatee County officials.

"They came to us with their project and we’re trying to meet their requirements as we did with Gulfstream," said Port Manatee Director Dave McDonald, referring to an existing natural gas pipeline running from Port Manatee to Mobile Bay, Ala.

McDonald met with Port Dolphin representatives last week to discuss the county’s concerns about the proposed project, Manatee County Port Authority Chairman Joe McClash announced Thursday at a port authority meeting.

"There is no meeting of the minds yet" between Port Dolphin and Port Manatee on the pipeline location, McClash said.

Port Dolphin Energy LLC proposes to build a floating port 28 miles west of Anna Maria Island in the Gulf of Mexico where tankers would convert liquefied natural gas to vaporized gas and offload it into a 42-mile-long pipeline coming ashore at Port Manatee, where it would connect to the Gulfstream Natural Gas System and Tampa Electric Co.

County officials recently learned that the proposed pipeline path would plow sand borrow for the county’s and Longboat Key’s beach renourishment programs, and will impact both marine and land habitats.

A spokesman for the Houston-based Port Dolphin, a subsidiary of Norwegian company Hoegh LNG, has called the project’s impact on sand resources "negligible."

Searching for equivalent sand elsewhere could cost Manatee County $38 million to $53 million over the next 40 years and Longboat Key $4 million, according to Charlie Hunsicker, director of the Manatee County Conservation Lands Management Department.

As a result, finding a new sand source may require taxing Anna Maria Island residents, he said.

Company could pay

Alternately, Port Dolphin could be charged for any increased cost, suggested state Rep. Bill Galvano, who said his staff is beginning to analyze the project now that the legislative session has ended.

"The concern is not to negatively impact the Island communities environmentally or from a tourism perspective," he said, adding that he may organize a town hall meeting on the project, which caught many officials unaware.

When port authority members, who also sit as the Manatee County Commission, inquired about the project last week, McClash responded that the port director is aware of the county’s concerns and that the county attorney’s office is coordinating strategy during the negotiations.

"I guarantee that those concerns are being addressed," he said. "We would rather have staff work with them outside of a public forum."

In contrast, McClash suggested that Port Dolphin should have done a better job of informing the public about its project.
"The biggest disappointment so far with Dolphin is that Gulfstream did a good job to resolve things before they reached an adversarial position," McClash said, while Port Dolphin "decided to take a path that was a little different than the one we encouraged them to take."

He encouraged Port Dolphin officials to hold public meetings to address concerns about the environment, fishing impacts and other issues.

"We encourage them to get back and work with the public as we encourage all our partners to do," he said.

McDonald pledged to emphasize the need for public involvement in ongoing negotiations.

When the Gulfstream pipeline was in the planning stages in the 1990s, the company invited representatives from environmental groups to public meetings and shared details about its project, said Arlene Flisik, conservation chair of the Manatee County Audubon Society.

As a result, Gulfstream, Port Manatee and Audubon worked as partners to transform a spoil island off Port Manatee into a $7.3 million, 60-acre bird sanctuary.

"I assumed they (Port Dolphin) would be doing the same thing," she said.

Other pipeline problems

Several groups are scrambling to learn about Port Dolphin’s proposal before the June 2 deadline for public comment on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement released in April by the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Maritime Administration, which have the initial permitting authority over the project.

Numerous other federal and state agency permits also would be necessary for the project to materialize.

While spills, leaks, fires and warm water discharges are of concern, several organizations cite the location of the pipe as their main concern, including the Maitland-based Save the Manatee Club.

"We want to make sure those pipes aren’t laid over a seagrass bed," which are feeding grounds for manatees and important nurseries for aquatic life, Science and Conservation Director Katie Tripp said.

While Gulf water will be used to cool tanker engines and will be discharged back into the Gulf at warmer temperatures, she said that manatees – which are attracted to warm water outflows in the wintertime – typically stay closer to shore than the proposed port and probably would not be significantly impacted.

However, the cooling system is of concern because the intake of Gulf water will entrap marine life, said Suzanne Cooper, principal planner with the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council’s Agency on Bay Management, whose Natural Resources/Environmental Impact Review Committee heard a presentation by Port Dolphin last week.

The most significant unanswered question is why Port Dolphin needs to build its own pipeline when Gulfstream’s pipeline is available for them to tap into, she said.

"Gulfstream says there is capacity in their line," she said, which is an open access pipeline, while Port Dolphin’s proposal is to build its own proprietary pipeline.

Gulfstream has filed comments with the U.S. Coast Guard objecting to the proposed Port Dolphin pipeline route and Port Dolphin’s proposal to connect with Gulfstream’s onshore pipeline, suggesting instead that Port Dolphin tap Gulfstream’s pipeline offshore for safety and environmental reasons.

The construction of the proposed pipeline could impact hard bottom communities of marine animals, including corals and sponges, Cooper said.

According to the project’s impact statement, 66 acres of benthic habitat would be permanently lost and 234 acres of bottom-dwelling benthic communities would experience "minor to moderate short-term and long-term adverse impacts" during construction.

"We have seen no mitigation plan," Cooper said, adding that the group is compiling its questions and will request that it be involved in the permit review stage of the project.

Effects on fishing

The proposed pipeline could affect commercial and recreational fishing because of its impacts on marine life, said Jeff Rester, habitat coordinator with the joint habitat program of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council and the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission.

"There are some concerns over the project due to the installation of a pipeline through hard bottom habitat and seagrass," said Rester, who is also preparing to file comments on the project by the June 2 deadline.

"The impact on the hard bottom habitat affects biological resources."

In addition, the tanker engine cooling system intake could cause a significant loss of eggs and larvae in addition to small marine creatures, he said.

"The whole idea of it overwhelms me," said Don Chaney, conservation chair for the Sierra Club’s Sarasota-Manatee chapter and a member of the Healthy Gulf Coalition, who, like many others, is still learning about the project. "It’s incredible to think they could do it."

Public comments invited before June 2

Comments on the proposed Port Dolphin project should be sent to the Federal Docket Management Facility before June 2 by one of the following methods:

• Mail or delivery to the Federal Docket Management Facility, Department of Transportation, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. 20590
• Phone: 202-366-9329
• Fax: 202-493-2251
• E-mail from Web-site: www.regulations.gov. Enter USCG–2007–28532 in the "search" field, then click on "send a comment or submission."

Submissions should include name, address and docket number USCG–2007–28532.

Faxed or hand-delivered submissions must be unbound, no larger than 81⁄2 by 11 inches and suitable for copying and electronic scanning.

All submissions will be posted without changes at www.regulations.gov and will include all personal information provided.

Hydraulic problems force closures of bridge

HOLMES BEACH – Island residents and visitors got a taste of things to come Saturday when the Anna Maria Island Bridge got stuck in the closed position and police had to block traffic from using it.

It happened Saturday about 3 p.m. and the bridge stayed closed for about an hour. While it caused traffic jams as drivers scrambled to use the Cortez Bridge, it could have been worse. Beach-goers usually start leaving the Island a little later.

The scenario repeated itself again Monday morning about 8:30 for a short while and some people started to wonder if the contractor rehabilitating the bridge was slipping in some extra closures, but Audrey Clarke, spokesperson for the project, said not so.

"They have been testing the temporary hydraulics on the bridge and they had some issues with it Saturday," she said. "It got stuck and they had to call some people in to fix it."

The situation repeated itself around 8:30 a.m. Monday, and again, it was an unplanned closure.

"They are still testing those hydraulics but when they do, they test them during scheduled openings at the top and bottom of the hour," she said. "That way they don’t open and close the bridge unnecessarily."

Quinn brought in the temporary hydraulic device to open and close the bridge while crews work on the permanent hydraulics.

Under the current schedule for the $9.12 million rehabilitation, the bridge is to be closed to automobile traffic starting Sept, 29 and lasting for 45 days at the most.

Clarke said there are no planned closings for the next week, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t break down and force drivers to use other ways to get off and on the Island.

Pipeline scuttles beach meeting

ANNA MARIA - Ripple effects from the proposed Port Dolphin pipeline have prompted the county to postpone a meeting on including the city in the planned 2012 beach renourishment.

City officials had invited Manatee County commissioners to a luncheon May 30 with plans to lobby the county to include the city in that renourishment project.

Mayor Fran Barford said Charlie Hunsicker called to postpone the meeting until at least November or December.

In a memo to Barford, Hunsicker advises that the city needs to be aware of the proposed Port Dolphin project.

"I encourage you and your staff to be familiar with the Port Dolphin LLC proposal and consider whether you wish to support Manatee County in raising concerns about the proposal and its adverse effect upon a continuing and economically viable beach renourishment project for Anna Maria Island," Hunsicker said.

The Port Dolphin LLC project is in the formal regulatory process. The private for-profit company is proposing a deep-water transfer port to bring natural gas into the state via an underwater pipeline through the Gulf coming ashore at Port Manatee.

"This pipeline passes very near beach compatible sand sources we have relied upon to maintain the beaches of Anna Maria Island," Hunsicker said.

Hunsicker, the county’s conservation lands manager, said his office is playing catch up.

"Although a project scoping process for this project was coordinated with state and federal regulatory agencies, beginning almost a year ago, we were not aware of the impacts of the proposal to near-shore compatible sand sources until the formal release of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement in April 2008," Hunsicker said.

While disappointed about the postponement, Barford said she understands the urgency of the county’s efforts.

As it stands now, Anna Maria would be left out of the 2012 renourishment project. Beach renourishment is funded by tax dollars generated by the tourist industry. County officials have said the city doesn’t generate enough tourist tax dollars to be included.

Including Anna Maria in the project would force the county to take out a line of credit – something county commissioners don’t want to do.

If the proposed pipeline were approved, Manatee County would have to use a compatible sand source much farther from shore, which would result in greatly increased costs for renourishment.

Snooks’ Kid’s Day a ton of fun
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/TOM VAUGHT
These were the over five Privateers’ Pirates contestants.

BRADENTON BEACH – The Anna Maria Island Privateers spent last Saturday entertaining several dozen kids and their parents at the annual Snooks Adams’ Kid’s Day on the bayside of Coquina Park in Bradenton Beach. Adams, the Island’s first police chief, started the tradition 50 years ago when he brought a bunch of Island boys to the beach to enjoy summer vacation. The event soon included girls and the Privateers took it over several years ago.

There was face painting, hot dogs, chips and refreshments inside the gazebo.

Quite a few kids competed in the pirate look alike contest. Hazel Anderson, 5 1/2, from Minnesota, and Gabriel Fasching, 5, of Anna Maria, won the contest in the five and under division. Spencer Stephens and Logan Bullard, both 6 and both from Bradenton, won the over-5 contest.

After lunch, the kids looked for treasure in the sand and played games near the water. As for the kids, they enjoyed the day at Coquina and they gave their approval with a hearty "Arrrgh!"

Jim Gee’s kids going out into the world
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/PAT COPELAND
From left, Cory Costello, Brandon Kerr, Zac O’Brien, Billy Krokroskia
and Cody Beaver, who have been with music teacher Jimi Gee since
middle school, are preparing to graduate from high school.

Jimi Gee has some advice for the five students that have been with him since Island Middle School and are now preparing to graduate from high school.

"You have to give yourself to every situation," he emphasized. "Go with the flow, pay your dues and stick with it."

Students Zac O’Brien, Cory Costello, Billy Krokroskia, Cody Beaver and Brandon Kerr said their first impression of Gee, with his wild hair, colorful tropical shirts, clinging leggings and dangling earrings, was not pretty.

"Woman, gender confusion," responded two of them.

“I had read about him and had seen a 12-year-old photo of him in a suit. I thought I was in the wrong room," Costello recalled with a laugh.

Gee soon won them over with his easy teaching style, his enthusiasm and his love for music, but, more importantly, he taught them life lessons.

"He taught us to be ourselves and believe in ourselves, to accept diversity and choose our battles," Costello said. "Don’t go against the flow. Accept some things and work to change what really needs to b changed."

"Dedication," Beaver added. "To have a goal, stay focused, continually improve ourselves and not let circumstances stop us."

"To accept others," Krokroskia said.

In turn, they also have taught their teacher.

"These kids taught me to how to be myself and not worry about what other people think," Gee said. "They totally supported me."

Only one of the five is planning to study music, however, all said they would continue to play.

O’Brien is planning to study computer technology, hopefully at MIT; Kerr will study culinary arts at Keiser University; Krokroskia will attend Florida Gulf Coast University; and Costello will attend New College and plans to continue on to law school.

Beaver, who plays trumpet, plans to study jazz performance and composition at USF. He currently attends Booker High School where he plays in the wind ensemble, the jazz ensemble and the symphonic band. He also plays with the Florida West Coast Symphony Youth Philharmonic Orchestra.

Celebrate Memorial Day on Bridge Street

BRADENTON BEACH – The Historic Bridge Street Merchants are putting together a Memorial Day celebration for residents, visitors and beach-goers that will benefit the victim of a shooting in Holmes Beach earlier this year.

The Memorial Day Celebration will be held on Sunday, May 25, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Bridge Street with the proceeds to go to Sue Normand, the businesswoman who was wounded by a gunman Dec. 5. Normand, who did not have health insurance, suffered financial loss and still has problems getting around.

The celebration includes more than 25 arts and crafts vendors, food from local restaurants, live music and lots to do for the kids.

The musical slate includes Blues Pig from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and music from Roadblock.

In the kids’ area, there will be a moonwalk, a rock-climbing wall and a waterslide.

For the adults, there will be a chance to dunk your favorite community leader in the dunk tank, For more information on the event, contact Dana Snell at 941-720-3317.

Admission is free and there will be parking available in Cortez Beach and Coquina Beach where you can take the trolley to and from Bridge Street. Island residents and people staying on the Island are urged to take the free trolley.

Fire assessment approved

West Manatee Fire Commissioners last week approved the tax assessment rates for the 2008-09 budget year. Rates are based on the state’s personal income growth of 6.35 percent.

Recommended rates are as follows with the current rates in parentheses:

• Residential, condominium, mixed residential, mobile home and travel trailer – $148.22 ($139.37)base rate plus $.89 ($.84) per square foot over 1,000 square feet (except travel trailers);

• Duplex — $296.44 ($278.73) base rate plus $.89 ($.84) per square foot over 1,000 square feet;

• Commercial — $355.72 ($334.48) base rate plus $.149 ($.14) per square foot over 1,000 square feet;

• Vacant lot — $20 ($20).

The increases are $8.85 for residential, 1,000 square feet; $14.18 for residential, 2,000 square feet; $19.52 for residential, 3,000 square feet; $21.24 commercial, 1,000 square feet; $56.80 commercial, 5,000 square feet; $136.81 commercial, 10,000 square feet.

T-end dock ordinance revised

Homes Beach commissioners last week approved the first reading of a revised T-end dock ordinance.

"We needed it because we’re piecemealing new docks and we have to treat them all the same," Mayor Rich Bohnenberger explained.

The docks are in canals between 72nd and 74th streets, 74th and 75th streets and 75th and 77th streets. As the existing docks become obsolete, the city plans to replace them with new uniform docks.

The major change is that the revised ordinance provides for two separate waiting lists for docks. One is for people whose "chain of title contains a deed which purports to grant a right to use a boat space in these waterways." The other is for the remainder of the city’s residents who wish to use a dock.

Commissioners also approved a resolution establishing new dock registration fees. The fee is $50 for existing docks, but it increases to $425 after a dock is replaced.


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