The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 9 No. 50 - September 2, 2009


Errors found in report on pipeline

ANNA MARIA – Several mistakes were made in a key environmental impact report on Port Dolphin, including overestimating the amount of available beach renourishment sand off Anna Maria Island.

A 12-page correction of the U.S. Coast Guard’s two-volume Environmental Impact Statement on the deepwater port project lists 10 errors - including some previously raised by Longboat Key officials - that could impact the project’s imminent approval.

Gov. Charlie Crist is scheduled to decide whether or not to support the project by Sept. 11. The U.S. Maritime Administration is scheduled to make a decision on the port’s permit application by Oct. 26.

The port would be built 28 miles off Anna Maria in the Gulf of Mexico. Ships would dock at submersible buoys, converting liquid natural gas to gas and transporting it to Port Manatee through a new 42-mile-long pipeline.

Supporters of Port Dolphin include Port Manatee and other maritime firms and energy firms that cite benefits, including a positive economic impact and meeting a rising demand for a clean, alternative energy source.

Critics, including environmental protection group ManaSota-88, express concern about the project’s potential environmental impacts on navigation, fisheries, marine mammals, wetlands and beach renourishment sand resources.

Longboat Key digs in

The report, issued last month, lists expected impacts that the pipeline would have on underwater sand reserves used for beach renourishment on Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key.

In the most significant mistake, a "mathematical unit conversion error," according to the correction notice, nine times more clean, white sand was identified as being available off Anna Maria Island for beach renourishment than actually exists.

It’s one of the errors that Longboat Key officials already had pointed out, Town Manager Bruce St. Denis said.

The erroneous report indicates that so much beach-compatible sand exists off Anna Maria that Port Dolphin’s proposed pipeline, which would make surrounding sand unusable, would not have a major impact on renourishment projects, he said, adding that the facts lead to another conclusion.

“There’s not that much sand out there, so it’s an even bigger problem that they want to lay a pipeline,” he said.

The town commission was scheduled to meet in a closed session with the town attorney last week to discuss litigation strategies, including the possibility of appealing if Port Dolphin’s permit is approved.

Department support

In a comment filed on Friday, the U.S. Department of the Interior Minerals Management Service (MMS) recommended that permitting authorities ensure that Port Dolphin’s impact on sand resources “be addressed to the satisfaction of” Longboat Key and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection before submitting a right-of-way application for the pipeline to MMS.

Longboat officials’ concern about the pipeline’s impact on sand resources 11 to 13 miles off Anna Maria in an area known as F-2 is supported by Coastal Planning and Engineering (CPE), the beach consultant for the town and Manatee County, wrote Jarvis Abbot, petroleum engineer for MMS.

Area F-2 could supply sand for Longboat Key’s future beach renourishments, while the town’s current sand source only has enough sand left for one renourishment project, he wrote, stressing the importance of preserving area F-2.

Port Dolphin’s preferred pipeline route should be altered to bypass area F-2, or dropped entirely for another route, he concluded.

Port Dolphin did not respond to a request seeking comment.

Because of the errors in the Environmental Impact Statement, the U.S. Maritime Administration has extended the public comment period to Sept. 11 to allow interested parties time to review the changes and file new comments. To comment, go to, click on “Submit a Comment” and enter “2007-28532” or “Port Dolphin” as the keyword.

Fishermen to seek federal aid
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Businesses such as Star Fish Co. in Cortez also are feeling
the pinch of the longline fishing ban currently in effect.

CORTEZ – Commercial fishermen plan to travel to Washington D.C. this month to ask lawmakers to keep their businesses afloat, in the wake of a gear ban and looming regulations intended to save sea turtles.

They want regulators to lift the temporary ban on longline grouper fishing gear that became effective in May, and compensate those whose gear and vessels would be excluded from the fishery under new permanent longline rules, said Bob Spaeth, executive director of the Southern Offshore Fishermen’s Association.

The ban, which has put Gulf of Mexico longline fishermen out of work for more than three months, is scheduled to last through October, when it could be extended another six months. That would leave local restaurants and stores without locally-caught grouper until next spring, and impact bait, ice and fuel suppliers and gear and tackle dealers, he said.

“We’ve got to get this fishery reopened by Oct. 1 at the latest,” said Spaeth, a Madeira Beach seafood dealer. “The ripple effect is starting to happen to people who take our fish to other areas. Days are critical right now. There’s no production coming in. All the infrastructure is going to collapse. If something doesn’t happen in the next month, I’m not sure my company’s going to make it.”

A.P. Bell Fish Co. in Cortez also is in danger of going under, according to manager Karen Bell, who testified at a Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council hearing last month that only two of the company’s six grouper boats would qualify to fish under new council rules. Cortez fishermen Glen Brooks, president of the Gulf Fishermen’s Association, would lose three of his six grouper boats under the new rules, he told the council.

The council voted for regulations that would restrict grouper fishing to Gulf waters at least 210 feet deep from June to August, restrict the number of baited hooks on a longline to no more than 750, and make longline permits available only to boats with minimum average annual catches of 40,000 pounds.

The National Marine Fisheries Service is expected to approve the rules, designed to minimize accidental interactions with threatened loggerhead sea turtles, which sometimes drown after being hooked on longlines. Fishermen dispute statistics on the number of turtle deaths caused by longlines.


More than 60 commercial vessels that have been catching grouper on longlines in Gulf waters will not qualify to fish under the new rules, according to the Southern Offshore Fishermen’s Association and the Gulf Fishermen’s Association.

For them, the industry groups plan to ask lawmakers to develop a gear conversion program that will compensate them for their longline gear so that they can purchase vertical gear.

Vertical gear has fewer hooks and catches about a third of the grouper caught on a longline, Spaeth said. Longlines can trail hundreds of hooks on the sea floor for five to 10 miles for at least an hour before being reeled in.

“Vertical is a whole different fishery,” he said. “It’s precision fishing with a rod and reel. You’ve got to get right over the fish.”

Some fishermen are skeptical about converting their gear, saying that the longline fishermen who will qualify under the new rules will leave little grouper left for vertical fishermen.

“We can vertical fish, but that isn’t much when the longliners are out there catching everything,” said John Yates, who fishes out of Cortez.

The program should cover converting vessels too, Spaeth said, adding that the smaller vertical fishing catch makes small vessels more cost effective than large longline boats.

In addition to new gear and vessels, longliners will need training and time to learn the ropes, he said.

“Our goal is to not lose any fishermen through displacement or bankruptcy,” he said.

Sandbar honored by travel Web site

AMISUN News Robbery Banker
PHOTO/PROVIDED The Sandbar restaurant was named one of the
top five beach restaurants in the world by a travel Web site.

The Sandbar restaurant has been named one of the top five beach restaurants by the international travel Web site

(The London) Times Online rated Nowfly as one of the top 10 travel Web sites for 2009. It is mainly a resource for inexpensive flights, hotels and car rentals but recently joined forces with travel journalist Marcus Waring to launch Zip It, Nowfly’s travel column.

The listing describes the Sandbar, located in Anna Maria, as a historic restaurant dating back to 1913.

“Positioned on a beautiful white sandy beach overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, nowadays the simple restaurant has an indoor bar area serving up tropical cocktails and two pagodas preventing diners from melting in the midday sun,” it said.

“We are very pleased to be in the company of folks like Jamie Oliver, who is featured on the food network and who owns Fifteen in Cornwall, England,” said Ed Chiles, owner of the Sandbar, BeachHouse and Mar Vista restaurants “This recognition speaks not only to our world class location but also to the great staff we have the pleasure to work with, who enjoy the opportunity to create great memories for our guests on a daily basis.”

Pier inspection shows needed repairs
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

ANNA MARIA — The city pier needs some work. The final report from an inspection of the entire structure on Aug. 24 and 25 won’t be available for a couple of weeks, but at first glance, engineers said there’s some work that needs to be done.

“The pier isn’t going to collapse tomorrow,” said Lawrence Essman, an engineer from Miami hired to inspect the structure of the pier. “But the alignment of the pilings along the sides of the pier has been deflected.”

Essman’s firm, cankat-essman, inc. was hired by M.T. Causley to check the underpinnings of the pier.

“The pilings have shifted over time with high water and shifting sands. That’s why it isn’t in a straight line.”

High waves can buffet the pilings, making them shift slightly, according to Essman. Then when they settle back, they may be slightly off from where they were before.

The city hired M.T. Causley to inspect the pier.

Essman said the underpinnings of the pier are not very pretty, but he sees no structural issues.

“These maintenance issues don’t really have anything to do with the soundness of the pier, but they do affect the contours of the top of the pier,” Essman said. “What I’m seeing is pretty typical of this kind of pier. They all suffer over time from being exposed to the corrosive environment. They need regular maintenance.”

Rick Fraley, an engineer with M.T. Causley, was on hand to inspect all the utilities. “I looked at the mechanical elements of the pier – the roof, the air conditioning systems, the plumbing and electrical systems from the base of the pier all the way out,” Fraley said. “This pier is showing its age.”

Both Essman and Fraley declined to say more.

“We need to put all the pieces of the puzzle together in our report so we can get the whole picture,” Essman said.

A full report is expected in two-to-three weeks.

Wirries wins summer talent contest
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Maria Wirries, 12, won the Island’s Got Talent
contest on Sunday at the Sandbar with her
versatile singing style. SUN PHOTOS/CINDY LANE

ANNA MARIA – A sparkling performance by 12-year-old Maria Wirries clinched her first place win in the Island’s Got Talent contest on Sunday night at the Sandbar restaurant.

Judges Katy Demick, Jim Turner and Mark Ibasfalean were blown away when the versatile songstress hit the final high note on Linda Ronstadt’s dreamy “Blue Bayou,” a total departure from her Broadway-style performance of “New York, New York” in last week’s second round.

Seven finalists competed for three prizes in the talent competition, held on the beach at the Sandbar.

Wirries received $300, singer Hannah Roemer took second place, winning a $150 Sandbar gift card and singer/guitarist Taylor Zebracki won third place and a $75 Sandbar gift card.

All winners also received a Green Screen Audition from True Hollywood Screen Test Pro Audition and a stage performance at the Talent and Film Expo at the Manatee Convention Center on Sept. 19, where national talent and film scouts will meet to interview local area talent.

You can see the performances at

Keep Labor Day safe for manatees

ANNA MARIA — After months of discussion at the commission level and at the planning and zoning board, the question of whether or not to allow duplexes to expand remains just about the same as it was on the first day the issue was raised. The discussion at the Aug. 13 city commission work session was little different than earlier discussions this year.

Positions do not seem to have changed, either on the part of commissioners or on the part of residents.

There are 65 duplexes in the city. Most were built in the area that became a single-family district with the adoption of the comprehensive plan in the early 1990s, which made them non-conforming. All duplexes in the city became non-conforming with the adoption of the new comprehensive plan last year, which eliminated the two-family district. At that time, all the residential districts were merged into one classification, which allows only single-family homes. All existing duplexes are grandfathered, or allowed to remain as non-conformities.

Under the comp plan, non-conforming structures can be rebuilt to the same footprint if they are destroyed by a disaster such as a flood or a hurricane. If the owner tears them down, they can’t be rebuilt as duplexes.

Duplex owners can make roofing repairs and they can add non-habitable space such as decks or storage spaces.

Under city code, you cannot expand on a non-conformity, but some commissioners want that restriction modified to allow duplexes to expand to the legal setbacks; some want duplexes to be allowed to expand and add up to 250 square feet one time only; some want to keep the status quo.

“But what about people who bought small duplexes planning for retirement,” questioned Rafe Sackett, a resident who lives in one half of a duplex? “My mother can’t afford to keep the big house on Tarpon since my father died. She wants to move to the duplex they bought years ago, but it’s too small. She needs to add some space.”

“This city is primarily for single-family residences,” said Robin Wall, representing another point of view. ‘If we allow expansion of duplexes, they’ll just add bedrooms and baths and make them more attractive to renters.”

Bob Barlow thinks the city should allow expansion.

“It’s a question of fairness and equality among all people that own single family as well as two-family property,” Barlow said. “Owners of existing duplexes should have the same identical property rights.”

Barlow said it was not the intent of the comp plan to eliminate the property rights of anyone.

The city planner, who said he wasn’t really clear on what the commissioners intended, said he’d prepare an ordinance with options that they can choose from.

More TV time for Mermaid
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Ed Spring shows Roy DeJesus the fresh
grouper he is preparing as cameraman
Roger Johnson watches.

ANNA MARIA – When the area’s all-news television station goes looking for fine food, it often ends up on Anna Maria Island.

Last week, Bay News 9’s Roy DeJesus and cameraman Roger Johnson spent some quality time with Ed and Andrea Spring, owners of the Sign of the Mermaid.

The Springs are not strangers to the television camera. Ed has been interviewed for other TV cooking previews and Andrea was featured on a Food Network special on the Crisco Pie Championship, which won her national awards two years in a row.

They started in the kitchen with Ed who made up his pan-roasted grouper. He emphasized the freshness of his ingredients, plugging AP Bell in Cortez, which provides him with his fish.

It was interesting to note that the glare of the TV camera did not distract Ed. After they finished shooting the preparation, he cleaned the knife and countertops as he would for any dish. He also dipped his hands into bleach water several times during the process.

He had DeJesus add the spices during the grouper preparation and when the fish went into the skillet, Ed kept his body to the side as he worked the dish so that the camera could get the full scene.

Off camera, DeJesus and Johnson commented that this was not the smallest kitchen they had worked around, but it was close. Spring remarked that with the team of three he has working with him in the kitchen now, it all goes like clockwork with everybody working within his area.

When Ed finished the grouper, he plated it and set it at a table where DeJesus and Johnson shot an introduction for the program, known as "Chef’s Kitchen."

When the crew finished with Ed, they asked Andrea to take center stage in the kitchen preparing her award-winning key lime pie.

The episode will run on Bay News 9 on Wednesday, Sept. 9, at 6:52 a.m. and every hour until 4:52 p.m.

Bayfront Park remains under water quality advisory
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

County health officials say high bacterial counts mean swimmers
should stay out of the water at Bayfront Park in Anna Maria.

For the second week in a row, swimmers are advised to stay out of the waters off Bayfront Park north in Anna Maria.

The Manatee County Health Department posted the water quality advisory due to high bacterial counts after the weekly testing.

An advisory indicates that water contact may pose an increased risk of infectious disease, particularly to susceptible individuals, according to the Health Department.

The water is tested in 10 locations on Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key each week as part of the Florida Healthy Beaches program. Samples are taken from Bayfront Park, north and south; Manatee Public Beach, north and south; Bradenton Beach near Bridge Street; Coquina Beach, north and south; and Whitney Beach.

Results from the next testing will be available on Sept. 2.

High bacterial counts are generally attributed to fecal contamination that comes from stormwater runoff.

Anna Maria City Commissioner Chuck Webb suggested that the city takes some samples from the drainage system near Bayfront Park to try to determine where the high bacterial counts are coming from.

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