The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 8 No. 37 - June 4, 2008

headlines


Anna Maria opposes Port Dolphin pipeline

ANNA MARIA – Responding to concerns about eroding beaches and tourism revenue, Anna Maria commissioners are notifying other elected officials that the city opposes Port Dolphin’s pipeline plans.

Port Dolphin is a proposed floating port 28 miles from the north end of Anna Maria Island where liquefied natural gas would be converted to vapor, then shipped through a 42-mile-long pipeline to Port Manatee.

Commissioners voted Thursday night to submit the city’s objections to the pipeline portion of the project to its Congressional and Legislative delegations prior to June 2, when the U.S. Coast Guard, the first of several regulators on the project, was scheduled to begin finalizing its Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

Commissioners cited concerns that the proposed pipeline would plow through Manatee County’s offshore beach renourishment sand source and be surrounded by a safety buffer zone that would force the county to find sand elsewhere at an estimated $53.2 million cost over the next 40 years.

Officials of Port Dolphin have not responded to the county’s request to change its proposed pipeline path, although Coastal Planning and Engineering, Manatee County’s engineering firm, has identified four alternate routes, said Charlie Hunsicker, the county’s Conservation Lands Management Department Director, who requested the commission’s action.

Alternatives

"All options are being looked at," said Harry Costello, a public relations executive representing Houston-based Port Dolphin Energy LLC, a subsidiary of Norwegian company Hoegh LNG. "They understand the community’s concerns about the available sand."

Options include relocating the pipeline farther north, installing the pipeline under the sand bed using directional drilling technology, and trenching, which requires removing the sand, installing the pipeline and replacing the sand on top of it, he said, adding that the last option is costly and unlikely.

Also unlikely, he said, is for Port Dolphin to tap into the Gulfstream Natural Gas Systems pipeline offshore, an option suggested by Coastal.

The Gulfstream pipeline already has natural gas flowing through it much of the time; its limited capacity could keep Port Dolphin from being able to access the pipeline when its tankers are ready to offload, he said, adding that Port Dolphin also may lack the ability to pump its natural gas at the required pressure into Gulfstream’s line.

The pipeline’s estimated $53.2 million cost to the county over the next four beach renourishment projects, spaced 10 years apart, represents the cost of finding equivalent quality fine, white sand - most likely farther offshore - which would require a different, more expensive type of mining technology, according to Hunsicker.

Even if Port Dolphin paid a fee to compensate for the 40-year impact, the county’s tourist tax – the primary fund for beach renourishment – would be inadequate to cover the increased cost after that, he said.

If the county is forced to seek sand elsewhere, the renourishment project area could be reduced, he said, adding that Island residents also could see their property taxes increase to cover the funding shortfall.

"The more likely scenario is that we will stop the beach renourishment program," he said.

Without a wide, white beach, Island tourism could decrease, reducing tourist tax revenues and employment in the hospitality, real estate, recreation, retail, transportation and food industries, he said.

Beyond tourism

The economic impact of not renourishing the beaches goes beyond tourism, Hunsicker said, potentially compromising public utilities, hurricane evacuation routes, sea turtle nesting and private property, especially in the three-block wide portion of Bradenton Beach.

In addition, Manatee County, the Town of Longboat Key, the State of Florida and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers already have spent $35 million to find, permit and dredge the existing sand source, money that would be wasted if the pipeline is built on its projected path, Hunsicker said.

It’s also possible that no comparable sand is available, he said, because the sand in the path of the pipeline is a product of Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay currents that may not exist elsewhere.

Florida law requires that beaches be renourished with geologically identical sand.

TECO plans gas line to Island
The line would come out Manatee Avenue and go through Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach.

HOLMES BEACH – Surprised by a TECO plan to install a natural gas line in the city, commissioners asked the company to present more information at their June 10 work session.

"Our purpose for being here tonight is to make you aware of a construction project of TECO People’s Gas that will come through your city limits," Leroy Sullivan, Jr., TECO manager of external affairs for the Tampa Bay area, explained to commissioners last week.

He said TECO is a statewide natural gas distribution company that serves 300,000 customers. It has been in business for 100 years.

"We plan to start the project sometime in June," Sullivan continued, "and construct a 4-inch plastic gas line from 75th Street in Bradenton down Manatee Avenue to Gulf Drive. Where Gulf Drive and Manatee Avenue intersect, we plan to go north about 6,900 feet and south approximately 12,000 feet."

Division Manager Tom Lucas said the plan is to stay off the city’s main roads and come out to Gulf Drive around 28th Street and proceed to Bradenton Beach. He said roads would be repaired as they proceed.

Commissioner David Zaccagnino asked if the company is replacing old pipe and Lucas said there is no natural gas line on the Island, and this will be the first.

Lucas said the company is aware of the planned bridge closure and the project must be completed by Sept. 29 or shut down. He said the company has permits from the Florida Department of Transportation and Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

"It’s late in the project for the city commission to hear about it for the first time," City Attorney Patricia Petruff observed. "You need a right of way use permit, a franchise agreement and a traffic safety plan. A lot of assumptions have been made by TECO."

Lucas said they began discussing the project with Public Works Supervisor Joe Duennes several months ago and submitted the route to him several weeks ago.

The following day, Duennes confirmed that he has spoken with company representatives on several occasions, in person and on the phone, over the past few months and said he advised them to speak to the mayor.

"I never considered it a big deal," Duennes noted "It’s no different than any other utility wanting to come into the city."

Lucas said the company decided to come to the Island because it’s the last area it hadn’t looked at and it was seeking more commercial customers. He said the focus is to supply natural gas to restaurants, but if a residential customer lives on a street where there is a pipe, it would be available.

New law key to Pine Avenue development

ANNA MARIA — By a vote of 3-2, the city commission adopted an ordinance that would allow a property owner with adjoining lots to build one structure in the middle of the two lots.

In essence, the ordinance allows for one building under one roof to be placed on the property line in the residential/office/retail (ROR) district. Under the city’s comprehensive plan, duplexes are not allowed. Much of the dissension centered on the definition of a duplex.

City Planner Alan Garrett said that two separate structures with a common wall between them placed under one roof are not a duplex, but a single structure.

Garrett also pointed out that some of the parking problems could be solved under the new ordinance.

"It allows for the same square footage, but there is more area around the building for the parking required under city code," he said.

Jeremy Anderson, an attorney with Lobeck and Hanson, spoke on behalf of his clients, William and Barbara Nally.

"I disagree that it’s a single structure," Anderson said. "A duplex is two units in a single building, and allowing this would be allowing a duplex, which is against your comp plan."

City Attorney Jim Dye said the ordinance was not in violation of the city’s comprehensive plan.

"This maintains the density and intensity that the comp plan sets up under local policy," Dye told commissioners. "Under the current zoning this is allowed."

In the ROR district, the city is working to encourage a mixed-use area of the city where residences will be located above retail and office use.

"I think we need this to encourage the business development of Pine Avenue," Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick said. "If we deny this, we could end up with the street lined with three-story residences, which we’ve seen go up there lately."

When the vote was taken, Commissioners Chris Tollette, Mattick and John Quam voted to pass the ordinance; Commissioners Dale Woodland and Duke Miller were opposed.

Island takes hit on taxable values

The preliminary figures on taxable values of property in the county are out, giving the governmental entities an idea of how to set their budgets, and that outlook is bleak. Here on Anna Maria Island, the picture is even bleaker.

The report, released by the Manatee County Tax Assessor’s Office, shows that the city of Bradenton Beach lost 14.75 percent of its taxable value followed by Holmes Beach, which lost 11.92 percent and Anna Maria losing 11.79 percent of its base. By comparison, Bradenton’s values dropped only 8.01 percent and Palmetto’s went up 7.64 percent.

Those values are used to estimate what each city’s mill levy, or property tax rate, would need to be to finance city operations and services for the next fiscal year.

Dale Friedly, an analyst at the tax office, said he had a theory about the Island cities’ valuations.

"A good percentage of the homes on the Island are not homesteaded," he said. "When property values fall, the taxable values are not protected by the Homestead Amendment that restricts them to three percent, so they drop the full amount."

Friedly said that only about 35 percent of the homes in Bradenton Beach are homesteaded. This is due to the fact that many of those homes are rented to tourists or are second homes for people from other states.

Bradenton Beach Mayor Michael Pierce said he feels his city will be in good shape as they were prepared for a cut in property tax income. He said they would not have any specifics about next year’s budget plans until city treasurer Nora Idso, who is also the city clerk, gets more information from the county.

Holmes Beach Mayor Rich Bohnenberger said he would sit down with treasurer Rick Ashley later this month. He said the news did not come as a surprise.

"We knew that we would have less money than last year, but we won’t know how much until we get more details," he said. "These are just preliminary figures and we’ll know more when the assessor’s office gives us more details."

Now’s the time to give blood
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/TOM VAUGHT Elizabeth Moore, donates during
the blood drive on Friday, May 16, at the school.

The Island Blood Drive to benefit five non-profit agencies will be held at St. Bernard Church, 248 S. Harbor Drive, Holmes Beach, on Saturday and Sunday, June 6 and 7, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., but the real beneficiaries will be those who need blood.

This time of the year, when a lot of people are away, there is a shortage of blood for emergencies.

The drive, sponsored in part by the Anna Maria Island Sun, will benefit the Anna Maria Island Community Center, Anna Maria Island Privateers, Rotary Club of Anna Maria Island, Wildlife Education and Rehabilitation of Anna Maria and West Manatee Fire & Rescue Volunteers. As in the past, an anonymous donor will donate $100 to the non-profit of the donor’s choice, whether it’s one, a combination of agencies or all of them.

The first 250 donors will receive an event T-shirt. To make an appointment, go online to www.fbsdonor.org. Use the code MTFFO.

Fireworks video has explosive message

The Island Fireworks Task Force debuted its new Web site this week and its video will make a believer out of anyone who still holds the notion that fireworks aren’t dangerous.

In the video, Tchaikovsky’s "1812 Overture" plays in the background as hapless dummies handle ordinary fireworks. When the cannons fire, the fireworks explode, blowing off the dummies hands and heads and leaving the viewer with an indelible image of the power of these dangerous devices.

Another image that will stay with the viewer is the exploding watermelon. Watermelon soup, anyone?

In addition to the video, the Web site contains the group’s mission statement; Florida’s ordinance on fireworks with the message, "If it flies, bangs or shoots flames, it’s illegal;" safety tips and statistics on injuries, deaths and seizures; links and contacts.

You can find the Web site, developed by the West Manatee Fire & Rescue District, by typing in Island Fireworks Task Force or www.wmfr.org/fireworks/index.html.

Members met last week to finalize their educational efforts, which include a flyer in June’s utility bills; an article in the county’s Focus newsletter; television spots on the Manatee Government Access channel, Bright House, Bay News 9 and Channel 40; and a flyer to be placed in Island rental units.

Anna Maria Mayor Fran Barford, the group’s chair, thanked Ed Chiles for agreeing to forgo the July 4 fireworks display at the Sandbar this year to allow authorities to concentrate on confiscating illegal fireworks.

"I want to publicly thank Ed Chiles," she said. "He’s taking a huge financial loss, but he is willing to do it. There are people that are upset, but there will still be fireworks at the BeachHouse in Bradenton Beach on July 3.

"It’s not that we don’t want people to have a wonderful July 4. We’re just trying to give ourselves a chance to educate and confiscate, which we cannot do with the number of people that would come out here."

The group is planning to hold a press conference at 10 a.m. on July 26 at Anna Maria City Hall.

Hope reigns at Relay
Third annual cancer fundraiser is layered with stories of survival, loss.
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/CINDY LANE Cancer survivors celebrated life with a victory
lap around the Relay for Life track at Coquina Beach on Saturday.

BRADENTON BEACH – Tom Van Ness was down to 120 pounds when he went to the doctor to find out what was wrong with him.

Mesothelioma, or asbestos cancer, as he calls it, is considered incurable.

But three years later, the former automotive machinist is still walking around telling people about it.

Saturday night, he told his story to a group of cancer patients and survivors at the Relay for Life at Coquina Beach.

Nine months of chemotherapy "beat the heck out of me," he said, but it also beat the cancer. "If I can give one person out of all these people hope, it’s worth it."

A celebration

The Relay for Life is a celebration for cancer survivors and a tribute to those who lost their battles with the disease. The overnight event is designed to graphically symbolize the darkness of a cancer diagnosis followed by the dawn of hope.

Teams camped out overnight and walked in a continuous non-competitive relay around a track, interspersed with games, live music, meals and theme laps featuring crazy sunglasses, togas, crazy hair, pajamas and bubbles.

Anna Maria Island Privateers Alice "Splash" Domey and Tim "Hammer" Thompson demonstrated a wry sense of humor carrying a walking stick capped with a skull around the track, which was passed from team to team like a baton.

A particularly moving event was scheduled at dusk on Saturday – the Luminaria Lap, a silent, candlelit tribute to those who lost their battles with cancer and those who have survived.

The third annual event drew cancer patients from Cortez to Myakka City aged 18 to 85, including the most recent cancer victim in the group, diagnosed one month ago, to the longest survivor, Gary Pendergrast of Bradenton, who has lived 23 years through two types of cancer.

Twenty teams with 200 participants raised more than $30,000 for the American Cancer Society, which will use the funds for research, education and support programs, according to event Chair Laura McAdams.

Teams included the AME Survivors, Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce, Anna Maria Island Community Center, Anna Maria Privateers, AMI Fitness, AMI Rotary, Anna Maria Oyster Bar/Fantasy Travel, Curves Golden Girls, Home Improvement, Jon4pink.com, MetLife, Manatee High School National Honor Society, MHS Signing Canes, MHS TSA, MHS Zalo, Officer Lannon’s Super Family and Friends, SunTrust Surfers, UPS Teen Trotters and Walk of Faith.

Comments pour in on pipeline

A trickle of comments has turned into a stream of environmental and economic concerns about the proposed Port Dolphin natural gas port and pipeline.

Increasing awareness of the project prompted public agencies and private citizens to file comments with the U.S. Coast Guard a few days before its June 2 public comment deadline.

The agency is reviewing the proposed floating port, where tankers would convert liquefied natural gas to vapor 28 miles from the north end of Anna Maria Island, then ship it through a 42-mile-long pipeline to Port Manatee.

The Coast Guard’s Final Environmental Impact Statement, which will reflect the comments, is due in July, followed by a final public hearing in August and a decision expected by the end of the year.

Several other state and federal permits also would be required to construct the port.

Manatee County

Manatee County objects to the proposed path of Port Dolphin’s pipeline, saying it would make the county’s offshore supply of beach renourishment sand inaccessible and cost the county $53.2 million over the next 40 years to replace it.

Jeopardizing the renourishment program could lead to the loss of public beaches as a recreational resource and a habitat for sea turtles and other creatures, in addition to a loss of tourists, a reduction in employment and tax revenues, increased flooding and the undermining of hurricane evacuation routes, according to comments prepared by Coastal Planning and Engineering, the county’s beach renourishment advisor.

Coastal recommends four alternate routes for the pipeline that it claims would not affect the sand resources, including tapping into the nearby existing Gulfstream Natural Gas Systems pipeline, to which Gulfstream has agreed, and laying the pipeline nine miles west of Egmont Key parallel to the Gulfstream pipeline.

The county asks that alternative routes be presented in a second version of the Coast Guard’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement before the agency issues its final statement.

Longboat Key

The Town of Longboat Key, which also mines the state-owned sand source off Anna Maria Island for its beach renourishment program, filed a 61-page objection to the pipeline with similar concerns.

Prepared by Coastal, the engineering firm that advises Manatee County, the document notes that Longboat Key pays for its beach renourishment differently, with town taxes in addition to the tourist tax tourist tax revenue that Manatee County relies on.

Longboat Key was counting on using another 1.5 million cubic yards of the sand in its next project, which, according to the comments, will be impossible under the pipeline plan, putting its beaches in jeopardy.

The pipeline route also impinges on four, hilly sand sources the town had earmarked for future beach renourishment projects, according to the document.

Finding equivalent sand elsewhere will cost the town an estimated $4.75 million or more, depending on the size of the safety buffer zone around the pipeline.

"The direct impact, while extreme by itself, could lead to significant cumulative impacts to the economy, public safety and the environment of the Town of Longboat Key," the document states, citing increased erosion and flooding, and loss of beaches, tourism, jobs and taxes as consequences.

The town requested a more detailed analysis of alternative pipeline routes in a second version of the Coast Guard’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch

Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch objects to the pipeline because it would

endanger the county’s beach renourishment project, which would in turn endanger imperiled sea turtles, according to director Suzi Fox.

Making the beaches wider increases nesting activity because it increases the amount of space available for nests, she said, adding that the opposite is also likely.

The construction of the port and pipeline also could destroy seagrasses, a habitat for sea turtles.

The floating port’s water exchange systems also could affect turtles, she said. The engine cooling system would discharge hot water into the Gulf, and its regasification system, which would use Gulf water to warm the liquefied natural gas into vapor so that it can be piped ashore, would discharge cold water into the Gulf.

"Minor and short term impacts" to sea turtles cited in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement are not acceptable, she said.

Florida Department of Environmental Protection

DEP comments had not been filed by press time, but its Bureau of Beaches and Coastal Systems detailed its written objections to the Port Dolphin project in a May 23 memo for inclusion in the agency’s comments.

"Elimination of known suitable sand sources would cause great expense and delay, possibly subjecting local communities to increased storm damage, loss of tourism and loss of habitat for threatened and endangered species including marine turtles and shorebirds," according to the bureau, which is responsible for managing Florida’s beach and dune systems under Florida law.

The memo stated a preference that Port Dolphin’s pipeline follow Gulfstream’s pipeline path to minimize its impact.

It also suggested that the company could dig underneath sensitive habitat areas using hydraulic directional drilling to lay the pipeline, rather than destroying the areas by laying it directly on the sea floor.

The bureau also warned that clearing a path on the sea floor for the pipeline could "facilitate colonization by the invasive, exotic green mussel, which could reduce or negate the value of some mitigation strategies."

Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Service

Port Dolphin would impact an area considered to be essential habitat for crab, lobster, shrimp, grouper, snapper, amberjack, mackerel, red drum and cobia, according to the service, which disagrees with the data the Coast Guard used to assess the port’s impact on marine life.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The U.S. Dept. of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service recommends creating wetlands elsewhere to compensate for the destruction of wetlands during the pipeline construction, which could reduce habitat for wood storks. It also recommends using standard protection measures to reduce construction-related collisions with manatees, implementing a light-management plan to avoid disorienting sea turtles and using standard measures to protect the eastern indigo snake on the land-based portion of the pipeline.

Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

The department’s Division of Aquaculture requested that Port Dolphin’s pipeline be constructed between November and February to minimize interference with oyster spawning.

ManaSota-88

The Nokomis-based environmental group recommends considering alternative pipeline routes and tapping into the existing Gulfstream pipeline.

U.S. Mineral Management Service

The U.S. Dept. of the Interior’s Mineral Management Service questioned the Coast Guard’s assessment that natural gas production is declining. It also suggested including information about using ocean currents as an energy source alternative.

Anna Maria Island residents

Kim and Brian Lockhart of Bradenton Beach and Cincinnati, Ohio, oppose Port Dolphin, citing potential environmental problems, its proposed path through beach renourishment sand reserves and the company’s refusal to respond to Gulfstream’s invitation to tap into its pipeline.

"Port Dolphin is being irresponsible and a poor corporate citizen by placing their needs above the general public and island property owners," they wrote. "We will not accept their arrogant attitude toward us."

Carl and Georgia Van Cleave wrote to oppose the project for several reasons, primarily the extra expense to Manatee County for its beach renourishment sand, which they predict will be paid for by local, state and federal taxpayers, not Port Dolphin.

They also cited environmental concerns including spills in accidents or storms, destruction of hard bottom habitat and seagrass beds, and the tanker engine cooling system’s expected effect on marine life. They also are opposed to the construction of a private pipeline when Port Dolphin could tap into an existing pipeline.


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