FDEP releases Aqua mangrove trimming report

FDEP releases Aqua mangrove trimming report
The Aqua mangroves to the left remain untrimmed, while the trimmed mangroves to the right now provide a better view from the multi-unit residential buildings being built on the Aqua property. - Joe Hendricks | Sun

MANATEE COUNTY – The mangroves on the Aqua property along Sarasota Bay were recently trimmed in compliance with state-issued permits, but the trimming notification process was not fully compliant, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP).

“As you will read in this report, the mangroves appeared to be healthy and trimmed within the permit limits – i.e. mangrove height is greater than 12 feet, trimming did not result in more than 25% of the foliage being removed and trimming did not induce tree mortality,” FDEP Press Secretary Alexandra Kuchta said in a May 17 email to The Sun regarding the department’s investigation of mangrove trimming at the property. “However, no pre- or post-photographs or pre- or post-trimming notifications were provided to the department, which are required by the mangrove trimming plan. DEP has requested this information from the company so we can complete our regulatory review,” Kuchta’s email stated.

Medallion Home is currently developing the Aqua property owned by Long Bar Pointe LLLP. The property is located in unincorporated Manatee County between El Conquistador Parkway and Sarasota Bay. Formerly known as Long Bar Pointe and Aqua by the Bay, the development currently taking place includes numerous single-family homes and multi-unit residential buildings.

The recent inspections of the mangrove trimming on the Aqua property were prompted by two complaints FDEP received in February and another complaint received in April.

FDEP report

On May 16 Hanna Westervelt, Southwest District Environmental Manager for FDEP’s Compliance Assurance Program, sent a cover letter and a copy of the FDEP inspection report to Medallion Home representative Rob Bosarge.

“Dear Mr. Bosarge, The Florida Department of Environmental Protection received complaints regarding possible activities on your property located on El Conquistador Parkway,” the letter stated. “On April 26 and May 3, department personnel conducted inspections of the above-referenced facility. Within 30 days of receipt of this letter, please provide the requested information regarding notification of trimming activity further described in the Recommendations for Corrective Actions section of the attached inspection report. Please be advised that any future noncompliance of the permit requirements may be subject to penalties under Chapter 403.9332, F.S. (Florida Statutes).”

According to the FDEP inspection report, the Aqua mangroves were approximately 20 feet tall before they were recently trimmed and are now 15-16 feet tall after being trimmed.

FDEP releases Aqua mangrove trimming report
According to FDEP, the trimmed mangroves are now approximately 16 feet tall. – Joe Hendricks | Sun

The report states the annual trimming activity conducted at the Aqua property this year was the third of four anticipated trimming events. The report notes the expected trimmed height was 20 feet in 2021 and 16 feet in 2022.

The report notes mangroves can be reduced in height by no more than 25% of the foliage each year, the trimming cannot result in the mortality of any mangroves and subsequent annual trimming height reductions depend on the remaining foliage. This could lead to a greater time span between trimmings. The report states the mangroves were measured with a telescoping pole and the report includes photos of a pole being used to measure the trimmed mangroves.

FDEP releases Aqua mangrove trimming report
A telescoping pole was used to measure the recently-trimmed mangroves on the Aqua property. – FDEP | Submitted

The report states all trimmings over 3 feet long or over 3 inches in diameter were to be removed by hand, properly disposed of and all reasonable efforts should have been made to remove as much trimmed material as possible.

“Photographs will be taken and submitted to the department 14 days prior to each trimming and again within 14 days following the trimming activity, and a joint site visit with (FDEP) department staff within 30 days following each trimming event,” the report said.

The report notes those notification processes were not fully complied with.

“Unauthorized trimming activity was not evident at time of the inspections,” it said. “However, no pre- or post- photographs, pre-trimming notification or post-trimming notification was provided to the department.”

Recommendations in the report to bring the mangrove trimming into compliance include the property owner providing pre- and post-trim photos within 30 days and, at the next trimming event, photographs are provided to FDEP 14 days before and after trimming takes place. A site visit with FDEP staff also is required to be scheduled within 30 days of any mangrove trimming maintenance.

Attorney Edward Vogler II represented Aqua developer Carlos Beruff during the Aqua/Long Bar Pointe permitting process and continues to represent Beruff and the Aqua development team.

When contacted by The Sun on April 22, before the FDEP inspections occurred, Vogler said, “All the work done in connection with mangrove trimming is done by certified mangrove trimming experts under the supervision of environmental consultants. All work is done pursuant to proper permits. We welcome the investigation and I think it will be confirmed that everything was done properly.”

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