The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 8 No. 39 - June 18, 2008

headlines


Tarpon Tale
A man, a kayak and a 160-pound fish
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Dr. Steve LeGore holds the tarpon he caught and released.
PHOTO/D.C. BIENVENUE

A Holmes Beach man was literally taken for the ride of his life last week when he hooked a 160-pound tarpon while fishing from his kayak off Longboat Key.

Dr. Steve LeGore was out with kayak fishing club founder D.C. Bienvenue and had only been in the water about 10 minutes when they found themselves in a sea of feeding tarpon.

Using 20-pound test line and live pass crabs for bait, LeGore got his first strike right away.

"We were within 10 feet of shore when the tarpon hit," he said.

The fish immediately began its first run and LeGore said it pulled him about a mile and a half out into the Gulf of Mexico. He fought the tarpon for the next 90 minutes from his kayak, all the while being pulled around the Gulf like some sort of wild chariot.

Just as the tarpon began to tire, LeGore said, something else had designs on the fish, as well.

"An eight-foot bull shark came up and started closing in on the tarpon," LeGore said. "He got to within three feet of me. You want to see how big an eight-foot shark is, check one out from your kayak."

LeGore said he gave the tarpon enough line to make another run and it took off. Fortunately, the shark seemed to lose interest and swam away.

The fight was on again after that, and LeGore battled for another half hour, bringing the fish back in close to the kayak. Finally, he and Bienvenue were able to attach the special green tag from FWC that allows a fisherman to pull a tarpon out of the water.

Bienvenue shot a picture, they removed the green tag, revived the weary tarpon and sent it on its way.

It was an experience LeGore will never forget.

"You talk about the best of the best," LeGore said. "And we ended it with a live release."

Anyone interested in the kayak fishing club can check out Bienvenue’s Web site at www.suncoastkayakfishing.com.

Another coast, a different approach
A proposed natural gas pipeline project off Port Everglades is being handled differently
than one planned off Anna Maria Island.

A floating liquefied natural gas port similar to the Port Dolphin project proposed off Anna Maria Island is in the works on Florida’s East Coast, where Port Calypso is responding to community concerns with its pocketbook.

Port Calypso is a project of Houston-based Suez Energy North America, an affiliate of the Paris-based company that built the Suez Canal 140 years ago.

The proposed Calypso, 10 miles off Port Everglades in the Atlantic Ocean, would dock tankers that convert liquefied natural gas to gas, then pipe it ashore to Port Everglades in its own pipeline.

Port Dolphin Energy, also based in Houston, proposes its port 28 miles off Anna Maria Island in the Gulf of Mexico, and would build its own pipeline to transport the same product to Port Manatee.

Both projects have heard their share of concerns from impacted communities.

But the similarities in their approaches to those concerns end there.

Dolphin’s proposed pipeline path would make Manatee County’s submerged beach renourishment sand area inaccessible, costing the county an estimated $50 million over the next 40 years to find and mine similar quality sand elsewhere, according to county officials.

Calypso’s pipeline path was scheduled to run through a coral reef. The company responded by committing to build a $100 million tunnel underneath the reef, similar to the channel tunnel, or chunnel, connecting the United Kingdom and France, said Dan McGinnis, vice president and project manager for Suez.

While Dolphin critics have suggested the company avoid the Gulf sand bed by using directional drilling to lay the pipeline underneath it, Calypso rejected that system.

"We decided to build a tunnel beneath the surface," McGinnis said, describing it as a concrete-encased dry tunnel three miles long that will hold the pipeline and a monorail system, enabling workers to access it from inside.

"We’re building a subway system," he said. "It hits our economics, but every one of these (projects) is different and we have to respect the tremendous ecosystem."

Fish count

Calypso also hired a private consultant for close to $2 million to do an ichthyoplankton study on fish species living in the project’s Atlantic region, which is heavily fished, according to McGinnis.

Dolphin’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement, meanwhile, has been criticized by marine biologists as having inadequate details on marine species that would be impacted in the Gulf.

"We had to run the most extensive 15-month ichthyoplankton survey in the world" to comply with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) requirements, McGinnis said. He also said the company would continue to monitor impacts on fish populations at additional expense after construction.

Talking to the community

The companies also have differed in their approaches to their respective communities.

Most officials on Anna Maria Island, Longboat Key, Manatee County commissioners and state and federal legislators learned of the Dolphin project after its first local public hearing May 6 – after the company’s environmental impact statement was finished and fairly far along in the permitting process.

Calypso, on the other hand, began working with community leaders and agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency, NOAA and the U.S. Minerals Management Service, two and a half years before its Draft Environmental Impact Statement was released a few months ago, McGinnis said.

"We are extremely proud of our outreach program," he said, noting that the company has significant experience. Suez is in the construction phase of a similar project, Port Neptune, off Gloucester, Mass. "These things aren’t easy to site. If outreach isn’t happening, you’re dropping the ball."

While some beachfront residents have objected to Calypso because it would be visible from shore at 10 miles out and would pose safety concerns, the company has held five federally sanctioned public hearings and about a dozen community meetings with fisheries groups and residents to explain the project and address concerns, he said, calling natural gas "very safe" and "very clean."

Whichever company gets a permit first will have the first facility of its kind in Florida waters, he said, but the two companies are in separate permitting processes that do not depend on the outcome of the other, McGinnis said.

"The companies are only technically in competition," he said, since Calypso is primarily an energy company and Dolphin is primarily a shipping company, and since each is negotiating with different power plants as potential customers: FP&L for Calypso and TECO for Dolphin.

"There is plenty of demand for gas in Florida," McGinnis said.

Fun times during bridge closing?

Several Island business owners are interested in joining to combat the expected slowdown when the Anna Maria Island Bridge closes for repairs this fall.

"We can make this a fun thing instead of a terrible thing for business," said Ginny Dutton, of Ginny and Jane E.’s at the Old IGA.

"We could stagger our hours and maybe offer some later things like picnic baskets for sunset," Jane E. said. "That way people would be coming and going across the one bridge at different hours."

The two would like to meet with other business owners to brainstorm ways to get people on and off the Island without getting tied up in the inevitable traffic jam on the Cortez Bridge.

"Maybe we could have them park at 75th Street and see if the trolley would make regular runs," Dutton said. "Once they’re across that bridge, they don’t need their cars, they can just hop on the trolley to get around."

The two also are investigating ferrying people to and from the Island by boat.

"We just have to all get together and figure out ways to make this work for us instead of against us," Dutton said.

Anyone interested in working as a team to figure out how to make the bridge closing a positive, instead of a minus, can call Dutton at 778-3170.

Tourist agency cuts budget

After several years of budget increases, the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau is facing budget cuts.

"The times, they are a changing," Director Larry White said, quoting a Bob Dylan song. "I’m kind of holding my breath."

The Manatee County Tourist Development Council voted Monday to recommend the CVB’s proposed $2.35 million 2009 marketing budget to the Manatee County Commission for approval. The budget is $39,807 lower than last year’s budget.

"It is a challenge," Manatee County Administrator Ed Hunzeker told the council. "We have to do what we have to do to balance the budget."

The largest cuts hit the Tourist Information Center ($34,000), and marketing for the Crosley Estate and Manatee Civic Center ($9,708).

Of the top three expenditures within the marketing budget, only the advertising budget suffered a cut, decreasing $5,650 to $937,925. The marketing contracts budget is up $15,168 to $780,468 and the travel/promotions budget is up $1,644 to $232,533.

"The reality is that we’re going to need to be cutting somewhere, and we don’t want to see marketing cut," council member and restaurateur Ed Chiles said.

The marketing budget accounts for the largest portion (43.2 percent) of expenditures of the county’s projected $5.4 million in Tourist Development Tax revenues.

The beach renourishment fund is the second-largest user of the tax (18.6 percent) at $1 million, followed by the Manatee Civic Center (17.3 percent) at $937,847.

In other business, the council:

• Approved $20,000 for a hurricane crisis plan to produce four marketing scenarios for use after an emergency.

• Discussed establishing a concierge service for visitors to make reservations for meals and activities at a central location.

• Wished Marketing Director Susan Estler well as she resigns her position, and thanked her for her service.

• Announced that the beach trolley system now extends to St. Armands Circle and downtown Sarasota and connects with the Sarasota public transit system.

Pine Avenue ducks missing
Two ducks that have long been members of the Pine Avenue community have been missing for more than a week.
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/LAURIE KROSNEY
Public Works employee Gary Thorpe, left, and
Pine Avenue resident Anne Lathrop, check out
the duck crossing sign on Pine Avenue.

ANNA MARIA — City employees and Pine Avenue residents are scratching their heads wondering what could have happened to Robbie and Gertie, two Peking ducks who had a home behind a building on the north side of Pine Avenue, just to the east of Roser Church.

"Something terrible must have happened," said public works employee Gary Thorpe. "Those ducks have been here as long as I have, and that’s been eight years. I checked around, and everyone said the ducks wouldn’t have left on their own when they always have fresh food and water here."

Anne Lathrop lives just a few doors down from there said she’s worried as well.

"I can’t imagine what could have happened, and I don’t even want to think it," she said. "There have been ducks here forever."

Thorpe fed the ducks and made sure they had fresh water during the week, and Lathrop took care of the weekends.

"I feel just sick," Thorpe said. "It’s just like someone stole your pets, or something."

Several years ago, a large, white male Peking duck was killed by traffic as he tried to make his way across Pine Avenue.

Thorpe found the duck, buried it and went in search of a partner for the remaining female duck.

"They mate for life, you know," Thorpe said at the time. "The female is just so lonely."

Public Works Director George McKay ordered a duck crossing sign and put it up near where the ducks stay on Pine to make sure people would watch for ducks and that there wouldn’t be another untimely end.

Thorpe and another public works employee, Brent Thompson, chipped in together and purchased a male from up near Ocala.

Thorpe named the ducks Gertie and Robbie after his parents. Lathrop called them Hannah and Biggens.

When the new male was brought to Pine Avenue, the ducks were introduced to each other, and the rest was history.

"They seemed to squabble for a minute, and then as soon as they got into the water, they were OK," Thorpe said.

"It’s like watching a water ballet to see them swim," Lathrop said. "They are so graceful, and they seem to be so synchronized. It’s beautiful."

Both Thorpe and Lathrop fear that someone or something interfered with the ducks, but they declined to be specific about what might have happened.

If anyone has information about the ducks, they can call city hall at 708-6130, ext. 21.

Don’t count on the government to take care of you
Emergency officials recommend that people have enough supplies to survive for a week.

HOLMES BEACH – Be prepared to take care of yourselves if a hurricane comes our way, emergency officials said at last week’s meeting of the Island Emergency Operations Center.

"We can’t plan for every situation," West Manatee Fire Chief Andy Price emphasized. "People have to plan to take of themselves.

"Our whole society is wrapped around the idea that somebody’s going to take care of me, but government can’t be the answer for everything, nor can FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency). When it happens we’ll do the best that we can."

"Everything that I’ve heard is that the government response will be worse if there’s a big one like Katrina,’ Bradenton Beach Lt. John Cosby agreed.

Cosby said another problem is a decrease in mutual aid due to city and county budget cuts across the state.

"In Manatee County we have 156 traffic lights at major intersections that we’ll have to have an officer direct traffic when the power goes out," Cosby explained. "In the past, we would call the state and say, ‘We need 100 officers.’ They would say, ‘We called Metro-Dade and they can send you 75 people.’

"Now when we call Metro-Dade, they say, ‘"We can only send 10 or 20, because we’ve had to reduce.’ They’re going to have to pull more resources from more areas. I also heard that some of them are saying they won’t send mutual aid unless they get paid."

Price said he also is concerned that during big incidents when the Island or the county depends on help from the outside, it won’t come.

"I’ve already seen a problem on the east coast where they had more fires than firefighters and they lost homes," he related.

Cosby told members that due to problems with the trailers used to house victims of Hurricane Katrina, FEMA plans to switch to pre-fab housing.

"The problem is that none of the manufacturers they’re working with want to build pre-fab housing and leave it sit and have an inventory that they can’t collect money on," he said. "So there’s going to be some delay in housing.

"It was suggested at the Governor’s Hurricane Conference that they move people into rental properties. FEMA is also seriously considering giving people the option of taking a tent and setting it up on their property.

"Another thing is a big gymnasium with cots," Price added.

"These things are coming," Cosby continued. "As scary as it sounds, it’s happening because they took such a beating on the trailers. What are you going to do about sewer – dig a hole in the back yard? How far backward are they going to go?"

Cosby reported that Sarasota County plans to continue to use armbands for re-entry after a storm. After a storm, residents must go to a designated location to get an armband for re-entry. Each storm event will require a different color armband.

The three Island cities will continue to use the hang tags issued at each city hall.

Members discussed getting new bids for contracts with companies that clean up debris after a storm because the state no longer allows piggybacking. In the past, the Island cities piggybacked on county contracts.

State shores up catastrophe fund
Raising insurance premiums is an alternative to issuing bonds and imposing assessments on policyholders.

To keep the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund afloat, the state has approved the sale of up to $625 million in bonds and has extended assessments on insurance policyholders for two years.

Assessments on auto, boat, home and business insurance policies to cover shortages in the fund will continue until 2014 instead of 2012, when they were scheduled to end, according to state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink.

The CAT fund is a reinsurance fund that covers insurance companies that run short of money to pay policyholders’ storm-related claims.

When storms cause losses that exceed the CAT fund’s ability to pay, the state issues bonds and assesses insurance policyholders to make up the difference, said Jeff Grady, president of the Florida Association of Insurance Agents, a lobbying group representing independent agents.

"When the CAT fund runs out, it taps policyholders," he said.

The assessments were instituted in 2007 to cover losses from 2005 storms, said Michael Carlson, Director of Legislative Affairs for Sink’s office.

Carlson and Grady spoke last week at the Sixth Annual Hurricane Preparedness Seminar sponsored by the Longboat Key-Lido Key-St. Armands Key Chamber of Commerce.

The fund has $9.92 billion, and needs $29 billion, Grady said.

"The difference is what we have to pay," he said. "What we have on hand to pay versus what we have to pay – quite frankly, I think it’s a joke."

Grady said that current economic conditions are negatively affecting the bond market, which will not be able to indefinitely absorb the increased costs of the catastrophe fund.

Hoping for a federal bailout is as unrealistic as hoping the wind doesn’t blow, he added.

One solution is to raise insurance premiums, Carlson said.

"CFO Sink thinks we need to consider how much higher premiums can business owners and consumers bear on the front end to avoid the back end payments that were just declared," he said.

The fiscal fitness of Citizens Property Insurance Corp., Florida’s state-run insurer, further complicates the problem, Grady said, because about 40 percent of the CAT fund is absorbed by Citizens, which is 44 percent underpriced compared to its risk.

"Their rates are frozen until 2009," he said. "Their rate versus risk continues to widen."

City’s water service may be interrupted
Businesses, especially restaurants, are advised to be prepared because unanticipated breaks in the line could occur.

ANNA MARIA — Those pipes stacked up at the edge of the Crosspointe Fellowship Church on Gulf Drive will be put to use beginning this week.

Manatee County will be laying new pipe to carry potable water to the Island’s northernmost areas.

"We’ll begin laying the pipe sometime around the 16th or 18th of this month," project manager Walter Sowa said. "The pipe in the ground is old and small. The one going in is a 12-inch pipe, and it will increase water pressure."

Sowa said that’s an especially good thing for firefighters, who need good pressure to stay on top of any fires that might occur.

Anna Maria Public Works Director George McKay has sent out notices to businesses in the city advising them to keep bottled water on hand in case there are some interruptions in service.

"Sometimes with the digging, they hit the pipe, and we have an outage for a while," Sowa said, so having water on hand is a good idea.

McKay said he especially wanted to make sure that restaurants and anyone in the food business knew about the project so they could prepare.

There will be at least two planned interruptions when each end of the new pipeline is hooked into the existing system in the ground.

When that happens, there will be a boil water warning in effect for at least 24 hours.

"Anytime you have an interruption, there’s a chance that bacteria can get into the water, so you have to wait 24 hours and then test the water to make sure it’s safe,’ Sowa said.

Traffic delays are also possible during certain phases of the project, because at some point, the pipe will be installed under Pine Avenue.

The new line will run along Gulf Drive from Peppertree, just across from Crosspointe Fellowship to Willow Avenue. It’s expected to take six-to-eight weeks to complete. Sowa said he anticipated a completion date before August.

The new line is costing the county $329,985,59, according to Sowa, who said the funds are coming out of utility fees.


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