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.
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 www.regulations.gov, click on “Submit a Comment” and enter “2007-28532” or “Port Dolphin” as the keyword.