The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 9 No. 38 - June 10, 2009


County awaits state decision on pier work

BRADENTON – Manatee County Commissioners last week learned of a glitch in their plans to replace the Manatee Beach pier.

Florida Department of Environmental Protection officials are concerned about construction taking place during turtle nesting season.

"We’re in the permit process," explained Rick Spadoni, of Coastal Planning and Engineering. "There’s a preliminary permit process called a diminimus permit, a very fast issued permit.

"The state indicated they could give us a diminimus permit to remove the pier, but we have one hang up. They don’t want to allow us to do the demolition during sea turtle nesting season."

He said they spoke to AMI Turtle Watch permit holder Suzi Fox, who said there have been five nests in 10 years on that part of the beach.

"We have indicated to the state that we will have the contractor remove everything from the beach each night," Spadoni said. "There will be no fencing, no lighting.

"We got the state to agree that Fish and Wildlife (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission) could make the decision, and we’re now working with them. We’re hoping to have a permit within a week."

He said the construction permitting process would be completed by fall and construction would take six months.

"I can only do what the state tells me to do," Fox said later. "It is real obvious that the pier is in trouble. I see things falling from it into the water.

"It’s a turtle and volunteer safety issue. Female turtles go under the pier and we have volunteers that have to go tight up against it to finish their beach survey properly."

Manatee County Natural Resources Department Director Charlie Hunsicker said the pier was originally constructed as an erosion control groin, and in 1990, the county made it into a recreational pier. Due to storm damage and wear and tear, it has deteriorated to the point that it must be replaced.

In March, commissioners approved a plan to remove it and replace it with a conventional pier with a 15-foot elevation at a cost of $1.5 million. The construction will be funded by tourist tax dollars.

At the time, commissioners asked Hunsicker to explore the possibility of adding another100 feet to the pier. Last week, he said that cost savings on demolition would make it feasible to do so.

Coquina Beach renourishment planned

BRADENTON BEACH – Coquina Beach is scheduled to be renourished with sand from reserves off the north end of Anna Maria Island in a $13.6 million project in February.

"It’s probably the most valuable beach this side of Tampa Bay," said Charlie Hunsicker, director of Manatee County’s Conservations Lands Management Department, in a presentation to the Manatee County Commission last week.

Manatee County will pay $5.7 million of the total from its tourist tax revenues, while the Federal Emergency Management Agency will pay $2.3 million and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will pay $5.7 million, said Rick Spadoni, senior vice president of Coastal Planning and Engineering, the county’s beach renourishment consultant.

The $13.6 million cost includes $6.4 million to build an 8-acre limestone artificial reef in mitigation for covering a nearshore rock habitat with sand. Two hundred thousand cubic yards of sand will cost $3.4 milion, $2.5 million will be used for a dredge vessel, which will also be used for a beach project in Anna Maria to maximize the investment, and $1.2 million will cover engineering, environmental and other services. A 300-foot-long geotextile tube that will be installed at the Longboat Pass jetty to make it impermeable to sand will cost $50,000, and another $25,000 will be spent to till the beach.

The DEP recommended against using sand from Longboat Pass, which the agency concluded could destabilize the pass, even though much of its sand originated from Anna Maria Island, Spadoni said.

The beach that has grown in recent years at the tip of Beer Can Island, or Greer Island, is largely comprised of sand that has shifted south from Anna Maria Island’s previous beach renourishment projects, according to Coastal’s report.

Manatee County is now looking to sand deposits off the north end of Anna Maria Island for the beach renourishment project, which will cost more due to the increased distance from Coquina Beach, he said. Future use of the sand deposits is jeopardized by Port Dolphin’s proposed route for a natural gas pipeline, according to the county and Longboat Key, which also gets its beach sand from the area.

The project timeline is expected to begin in November and conclude in April 2010, according to Spadoni. After DEP approves the permit, an environmental assessment will be completed, followed by the Army Corps of Engineers permit process and a solicitation for bids.

Port Dolphin, Longboat to meet

BRADENTON – After months of finger pointing, officials from Port Dolphin and Longboat Key agreed last week to meet with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection on where to install a proposed underwater natural gas pipeline.

Port Dolphin has applied for a U.S. Coast Guard permit to build a floating liquid natural gas port 28 miles off Anna Maria Island, where tankers would convert liquefied natural gas into vaporized natural gas and pump it to Port Manatee to supply electric companies.

Longboat Key officials are concerned that the company’s preferred pipeline route off the north end of Anna Maria Island could jeopardize high quality beach renourishment sand deposits used on Longboat Key and Anna Maria Island beaches, and destroy environmentally sensitive underwater habitat. They propose a different route that Port Dolphin finds objectionable.

Manatee County Commissioner Joe McClash asked the parties to agree to a meeting after hearing both sides dispute the other’s contentions at a commission workshop last week.

Both the county and the town have expressed support for the project, which would have a significant economic impact on Port Manatee, but both have reservations about the location of the pipeline.

"We are all in agreement I believe on two things," said Charlie Hunsicker, director of Manatee County’s Natural Resources Department - opportunities to bring natural gas ashore at Port Manatee, and that "the best pipeline route is one which avoids as much clean, white sand as possible."

Longboat Key prefers a route to the north of known and potential sand deposits that could be used for future beach renourishment projects for both the town and the county.

Port Dolphin said that when Gulfstream Natural Gas Systems requested approval in 2001 of a pipeline route similar to Longboat’s preferred route, DEP refused, saying the route contained environmentally sensitive areas.

"We have known from the beginning that this area contains large amounts of hard bottom with sensitive habitats," said Kristoffer Evju, assistant project manager for Port Dolphin. "Such an area will not be approved by DEP."

"We don’t know if that’s true" without current studies of the area, said Rick Spadoni, of Manatee County’s consulting firm, Coastal Planning and Engineering. Surveys and maps are subject to change because the sea floor changes, he said, and even current data is subject to interpretation and depends on the specific criteria that engineers are given to work with.

But if it is true that Longboat’s preferred route goes through sensitive hard bottom areas, Port Dolphin could possibly wind its pipeline around those areas, he said.

"The only thing we know for sure is that there are hills containing beach compatible sand off Anna Maria Island, and that Longboat Key’s preferred pipeline route does not contain those sand hill features," Spadoni said.

Port Dolphin’s most recent alternative pipeline route has the least impact on the sand deposits identified by Coastal, Port Dolphin Project Manager German Castro said.

It is the third route the company has offered for consideration in response to concerns from state and local officials.

In a June 2008 report, DEP wrote the U.S. Coast Guard that: "The (DEP) Bureau of Beaches and Coastal Systems has grave concerns that the Port Dolphin LNG Deepwater Port and its proposed pipeline alignment will eliminate from future use large quantities of beach compatible sand needed for regional sediment management in the southwest Gulf coast region of Florida… We would prefer that the pipeline follow the existing Gulfstream pipeline alignment to minimize the impact of increasing multiple uses of the nearshore waters."

The newest round of documents in the permitting process began circulating last month, headed by a report from Jacksonville-based Taylor Engineering, hired by Port Dolphin as an independent consultant to assess sand quality around its preferred route.

Longboat Key Town Manager Bruce St. Denis disputed both the report and its independence, saying that it omitted an area called "F2" that potentially contains a large quantity of usable sand, which Longboat’s preferred route would avoid.

He suggested stopping the clock on the permitting process until the issue is resolved.

Rerouting the pipeline already has cost Port Dolphin millions of dollars, Evju said, and the company hopes to avoid another delay in the permitting process, including a draft revision of the Coast Guard’s Environmental Impact Statement, which examines possible detrimental effects of the pipeline.

The final statement should be issued soon, predicted Assistant County Attorney Sarah Schenk, who said she was hesitant to advise county commissioners to oppose the pipeline because they also sit as the Manatee Port Authority.

The county estimates a potential $20 million in operating revenues for the port over the duration of the Port Dolphin project.

"It’s a legal process, and it’s political as well," she said.

City responds to Port Dolphin plans

BRADENTON BEACH – Reacting to a request for support from Longboat Key, the city will send a letter to Congressman Vern Buchanan protesting Port Dolphin’s proposed pipeline route that would threaten a potential sand source for renourishment.

Faced with a long report on the project, the city commissioners voted last Thursday, June 4, to send a non-specific letter to Congressman Vern Buchannan asking him to look into the situation.

Longboat Key City Manager Bruce St. Denis asked the commissioners for help at their May 21 meeting and they agreed to address it last week after it appeared on an agenda.

Mayor Michael Pierce said he wasn’t sure if they should act because the pipeline route had not been approved, but City Attorney Ricinda Perry said they should act.

"What they’re (Port Dolphin) looking for is approval of the project and then they will deal with impacts as they come up," she said. "They’re putting the cart before the horse."

Perry said there was some mistrust of Port Dolphin.

"They said the project would bring us money and jobs, but when we sat down with them, they could not pinpoint what the jobs would be," she said. "The jobs would come during the construction, not afterward."

Perry said that since the city commission is relatively uninformed about the specifics of the project, the city should write its own general letter of opposition instead of signing off on Longboat Key’s letter.

The commission voted unanimously to have Perry draft the letter to Buchannan with copies to the Island cities and Longboat Key.

Blood drive offers more opportunities

A big benefit of giving blood at the annual Island Blood Drive is the fact that an unidentified benefactor donates $100 for each unit given to one or a combination of five non-profit organizations. This year, the drive will be held at St. Bernard Catholic Church, 248 S. Harbor Drive, Holmes Beach, on Saturday, and Sunday, June 13 and 14, from 9, a.m. to 4 p.m. and you will be able to double that monetary donation to the charity or charities of your choice if you use the Alyx Component Collection System.

The Alyx system can specifically collect red blood cells and increase the supply of this critically needed blood component. It takes between 25 and 28 minutes to donate and the result in twice the amount of red blood cells as a normal donation.

With a manual donation, you provide one pint of blood that is separated into its therapeutic components, typically providing one transfusion dose of red blood cells and a partial dose of platelets and plasma. A donation under Alyx means they replace the platelets and plasma with red blood cells.

To qualify for donating two red blood cell units on the Alyx System, males must be at least 5’1" tall and weigh at least 130 pounds. Women must5 be at least 5’5" tall and weigh at least 150 pounds.

As with whole blood donations, donors should drink plenty of fluids, relax, have a snack in the refreshment area and refrain from strenuous exercise for 24 hours after donating.

The five non-profits are the same as last year. They are the Anna Maria Island Community Center, the Anna Maria Island Privateers, the Rotary Club of Anna Maria Island, Wildlife Education and Rehabilitation Center, Inc., and West Manatee Fire Rescue Auxiliary, formerly known as the Volunteers.

Last year, donors will be able to relax in the air conditioned St. Bernard Social Hall, 248 S. Harbor Drive, Holmes Beach. In years past, donors sometimes had to sit outside in the heat at one of several bloodmobiles parked on the Island.

The Ninth Annual Island Blood Drive is sponsored by The Anna Maria Island Sun, The Bradenton Herald, Signs Now, Domino’s Pizza, the Beach House Restaurant and Tropicana. Identification is required to donate. Call 800-68 BLOOD (25663) to make an appointment or logon to and use the code MTFFO (zero).

Lines drawn in sand over cell phone tower

BRADENTON BEACH – For the first time since its was proposed, the possibility of a cellular phone tower has been discussed.

The Bradenton Beach Scenic Waves Partnership met Monday afternoon and the agenda item, "Various options for improving cell phone coverage," drew people from Longboat Key to discuss those options. There was discussion, but no conclusion as the proposal awaits a tedious advance through the city government before becoming reality, if it does.

Representatives from Ridan Industries and Alpha Omega Communications, LLC, initially proposed constructing a tower near the public works bulding on Highlands Avenue at a May 5 city commission meeting. They were initially going to bid on a cell phone tower that Manatee County was going to build next to its new safety complex at Coquina Park Bayside, just south of Leffis Key. At that time, commissioners voted to have the city attorney research the proposal.

There is only one cell phone tower on the Island at this time in Holmes Beach, and an attempt to build one in the city of Anna Maria failed earlier.

Police chief Sam Speciale, who favors another cell tower, made his pitch at Monday’s meeting. He talked about the city being able to determine what kind of a tower it would have and where it would go plus it would collect around $24,000 per year in rent from the tower’s builder and operator.

Plans call for a unipole, one large pole 150 feet high that would service four to six carriers. The more common type, a monopole, has many antennae sprouting from a large pole.

"We don’t know what the county would get," Speciale said. "Right now, they are waiting to see what we do. If we do nothing, they would build their own. If we build ours, then they won’t."

Speciale noted that the location of the proposed tower is next to public works and not in a heavily residential area. It would be surrounded by a park to the west, the police station to the north and a house to the south.

"It wouldn’t impact other neighborhoods aesthetically," he added.

When asked about possible health hazards of living near a cell phone tower, Speciale said one would have to "hug" the tower near the top to get any kind of affect from the radio signals.

Speciale discounted another system of improving cell phone service, called DAS, which he said would require small antennae on several power poles with black boxes also mounted on the poles throughout the city.

"I don’t think we want that in our (Scenic Highway) corridor," he concluded.

The next speaker was Longboat Key Town Commissioner Gene Jaletski, who spearheaded a campaign in his town against a proposed cell phone tower. He said a survey taken of residents two years ago showed that 99.9 percent of the people preferred a DAS system to a tower. He also spoke of the money involved.

"These companies make around $3,000 per day per carrier is what I’ve been told," he said. "If you decide to have a tower, hold out for more money."

Jaletski said that Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore told him that if a city doesn’t want a cell phone tower, it doesn’t have to allow it. He said that a court of appeals backed the town of Wellington, Fla., in opposing the construction of a cell phone tower within its limits.

The next speaker was former Longboat Key mayor and commissioner Jeremy Whatmough.

"This is a very emotional issue and like everything else, nobody wants it in their back yards," he said. "It is very emotional because once you cross the line, you can’t go back."

James Eatrides, managing director of Alpha Omega, said he wasn’t going to talk about the proposal at the meeting, but he felt there had been some mistruth.

"We did not bid on the county’s tower at the beach (it would actually be on the bay)," he said. "We felt the unipole would be better for the city aesthetically."

Eatrides said that the question asked in the poll basically asked if they would want a big ugly cell phone tower or a series of small antennae. He called it very unfair.

At that point, Scenic Waves Partnership chair Carl Parks asked if there were any more speakers and nobody answered. He said the issue would be heard at future city meetings.

Holmes Beach refines regulations

HOLMES BEACH – Commissioners recently refined regulations regarding parking, PODs and satellite dish antennas revised by planning consultant Bill Brisson in addition to individual home owners and local contractors.

The regulations now allow more flexibility in the city’s code on three parking issues – businesses without enough parking, parking commercial vehicles overnight in residential districts and parking boats and trailers in residential districts.

For businesses without enough parking, the code will now allow off-site parking within 500 feet of the business in any commercial zoning district that is the same or more intense than the one in which the business is located. The parking area may be shared by more than one business.

The code for parking commercial vehicles in residential districts overnight was based on capacity, but will now be based on class. Class 1 includes minivans, utility vans, multi-purpose vehicles and full-size pickup trucks, which are not considered commercial vehicles. In Class II are the commercial vehicles, which includes those that exceed 20 feet in length, except for pickup trucks, and have racks for commercial use.

Commissioners discussed walk-in trucks parked at residential construction sites, which Brisson said are allowed; and on-call employees taking home Class II vehicles, which commissioners agreed should not be allowed.

Parking RVs, boats and similar vehicles will be allowed in the front yard or front portion of the side yard, and the 3-foot setback for side yard parking was eliminated. The vehicle cannot be parked in the back yard if it is a waterfront yard.

Brisson also clarified language in the code to allow PODs (portable on demand storage units), on construction sites and ease regulations on small satellite dish antennas.

Local author a finalist for book awards
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

H. Terrell Griffin

H. Terrell Griffin has been named a finalist in the mystery/suspense category of the 2009 Indie Excellence Awards. The annual awards program highlights the best independently published works, according to a press release from Oceanview Publishing.

Griffin also was a top-three finalist in the Independent Book Publisher’s Association’s Benjamin Franklin Awards May 29.

Both awards were for Griffin’s latest book, "Blood Island," brought out by Oceanview Publishing. The novel is packed with hard-hitting adventure, spine-tingling suspense and dynamite action. A lot of that action takes place on Anna Maria Island, Longboat Key and in Cortez. The book was reviewed in the Nov. 26, 2008, edition of The Sun.

Griffin’s protagonist, Matt Royal, never has to look for excitement. Excitement and trouble find him.

The fun-loving lawyer turned beach bum always seems to find himself in the midst of serious action — dead serious action.

When his ex-wife asks for help in tracking down her stepdaughter, last seen in Matt’s hometown of Longboat Key, Matt agrees to do a little searching.

Enlisting the aid of his buddies Jock Algren and Logan Hamilton, Matt launches a full-speed search from Tampa to Key West to an ominous strip of land called Blood Island.

Griffin’s plot is brim-full of unexpected twists and turns and brimming with non-stop action. "Blood Island" combines the unmistakable heat of Florida with chilling suspense.

"Blood Island’ was Griffin’s first book brought out by Oceanview Publishing, which is owned and operated by part-time Longboat residents Bob and Pat Gussin. Griffin’s two previous Matt Royal books were self-published.

They are available at local booksellers and online.

AMISUN ~ The Island's Award-Winning Newspaper