The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 10 No. 32 - May 12, 2010


Island watches, waits
Residents are preparing for the worst but still hoping the "Category 5 oil spill" stays far away from Anna Maria Island.

Watching the spread of the Deepwater Horizon oil slick is like a hurricane watch for Anna Maria Island residents - the waiting is the hardest part.

With no shutters to put up, no ice to stockpile and no survival kits to assemble, there is very little to do but watch, wait - and go to the beach.

Beachgoers are not taking crystal clear water and clean beaches for granted now that they’re threatened by oil.

Cortez resident Dana Wakelam and several of her friends went to the beach last week to beat the oil. Beach walkers are making comments in passing to strangers about enjoying the beach while it’s free from oil. In the checkout line, shoppers discuss how the spill may keep lawmakers from proposing oil rigs in the Gulf.

“It’s totally unacceptable considering the potential damage,” said Rusty Chinnis, a local angler who opposes oil rigs. “It’s horrible. Horrible.”

Special session

Already, state Reps. Keith Fitzgerald, D-Sarasota, and Rick Kriseman, D-St. Petersburg, have proposed a special legislative session to amend the state constitution to prohibit oil and gas drilling in state waters, supported by state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, whose website offers a petition to support the amendment.

The governor declared a statewide state of emergency, and Sarasota County soon followed, but Manatee County has not followed suit, as no signs of oil have been reported approaching the county.

“We’re not ready to do that yet,” Commissioner John Chappie said.

The benefits of declaring a state of emergency include expedited decision making without having to go through normal chains of command and access to emergency funding, said Ed McCrane, emergency management chief for Sarasota County.

“Also, it gives everybody in government a sense of urgency, and we can pull people away from their normal duties,” he added.

Tourism Week

The urgency is palpable in the tourism industry.

Local tourism officials are celebrating Tourism Week this week, with one even jumping out of a plane onto Coquina Beach to let people know the beaches are unaffected.

An oil spill is like a Category 5 hurricane to the tourist industry, causing cancellations, slow bookings and damage to the beach.

Tourism-related businesses like Island Real Estate are compiling records of past spring business to compare with 2010’s season in case oil reaches the beaches and they make compensation claims against BP.

The Anna Maria Chamber of Commerce is fielding phone calls from people demanding to know whether the oil will arrive during their vacations.

Wildlife groups also are in high gear, with the spill coming at the start of sea turtle and bird nesting season. Oil is often lethal to dolphins, manatees and sea turtles, which must surface through the oil to breathe air. It also kills fish and birds.

Well-meaning volunteers getting a head start on the oil by cleaning up beaches disturbed bird nesting areas, prompting state agencies to issue beach cleaning guidelines.

Commercial fishermen and recreational fishing guides are watching closely as the spill causes fishery closures to the north. They fear increased regulations even if the oil does not reach the coastline, but for now, seafood is available and safe locally.

Cortez commercial fishermen are applying to BP to help lay booms if the oil approaches west central Florida coastlines.

Official estimates are that 5,000 barrels – about a tanker’s worth of oil – are being discharged into the Gulf each day. A dome built to cap the gusher may or may not work, and is only a temporary fix until a relief well is completed in the next three months. Projections of oil arriving on Florida’s coastline have been consistent since last month – no impact “in the next 72 hours.” The U.S. Coast Guard predicted the liquid oil would turn into sticky tar balls and just such golfball-sized clumps began washing up on Alabama beaches over the weekend.

At press time, the oil remained north of the loop current that could sweep oil safely past Anna Maria Island, but deliver it to the Keys, then into the Gulf Stream and up the Atlantic Coast.

Morgan Stanley analysts are estimating that cleanup costs will exceed those of the Exxon Valdez in 1989, with potentially larger fines.

Island watches, waits
Tourism officials work to get out the message that, so far, local coastlines remain unaffected by the spill.
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story


Larry White had planned to jump out of a plane to celebrate Tourism Week, May 8-16, before the Deepwater Horizon disaster began on April 20.

But after the spill, the jump took on a new meaning: The beaches are still clean.

White, 75, executive director of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, jumped Saturday from about 10,000 feet wearing a “Travel Means Jobs” T-shirt to land on Coquina Beach, which the CVB promotes to the world.

The beach was unaffected by the oil spill at press time, and Anna Maria Island accommodations remained open.

Tourist Development Council members and Manatee County commissioners will carry that message to the Tourist Information Center at the Prime Outlets at Ellenton, on Wednesday, May 12, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., passing out beach balls and sunscreen to visitors.

But if oil reaches the beaches, it would be the equivalent of a hurricane to the tourism industry.

A 1993 oil spill from one of three tankers that collided in Tampa Bay resulted in several months of cleanup on Pinellas County beaches, said John Marks, General Manager of the Don Cesar Beach Resort.

“Guest expectations are not to have oil stains on their feet when they wade in the water,” he said, adding that hoteliers offered diluted baby oil and mini towels for guests to clean tar from their feet. “That’s not what they bought.”

A disaster fund set aside for marketing purposes in case of a hurricane would be tapped to keep visitors up to date on the status of the beaches if oil washes up on Anna Maria Island, White said.

Meanwhile, the message that the Island is open for business and pleasure will be heavily advertised on websites for the CVB and the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce, according to tourism officials.

“The most important thing for our destination is to have a live beach webcam showing pristine water,” tourism analyst Walter Klages told the Manatee County Tourist Development Council on Monday.

A survey of Manatee County visitors during the first quarter of 2010 showed that 78.8 percent used the Internet to get information about the county. His survey of Fall 2009 visitors found that 80.7 percent cited “clear blue water” as the number two reason to visit, and 94.6 percent cited “beautiful beaches” as the number one reason to visit.

The Beach House restaurant is working with Fox News on a live webcam, said Ed Chiles of the Chiles Group, adding, “I’m worried the perception is ‘Florida’s off limits,’ ” especially in Europe.

If international tourists hear about oil damage anywhere in Florida, it will be a disaster, predicted Wayne Genthner of Wolfmouth Charters on Longboat Key. Genthner does his own marketing, traveling to Spain, Denmark and other countries to promote his fishing and wildlife viewing business.

“If the Keys are gooed up with oil, it will be very hard to sell Anna Maria Island,” he said.

Capt. Kim Ibasfalean of Cortez began getting calls canceling sightseeing excursions booked for later this summer almost immediately after the rig began gushing oil.

The Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce has been struggling to explain to callers that they can’t predict where or when the oil will reach the coastline.

Hotel cancellations started coming in as news about the oil spill spread.

“We’re seeing cancellations 45 days out,” said Larry Chatt, vice president of Island Real Estate. “People are still booking, but we’re averaging 10 calls a day and three to five emails with questions.”

The company has activated a daily information center it uses to inform visitors when hurricanes are expected, he said, but now it’s projecting the oil spill’s path.

Staff is available to answer questions and concerns by phone and on a guest by guest basis, he said, adding that “old-fashioned communication” is the best response. Until now, the season has been “fantastic,” he said, with the summer shaping up to be a “barnburner.”

The Island fared better than some other Florida destinations during a winter season dampened by unusual cold and a poor economy, Klages said, because of return visitors and its “real Florida” image.

Hoteliers should tell guests who inquire about the oil spill that it has not affected Florida, and avoid speculating about what will happen if it does, advised CVB Marketing Manager Jessica Grace.

Oil spill puts other projects on hold

It’s out there and it’s getting huge and until officials know where the oil spill will go and how soon, a lot of other projects are going to have to wait. Manatee County Natural Resources Director Charlie Hunsicker said that the impending influx of oil is taking precedence over all other projects.

“Even though the oil from the spill is weeks away from us, barring any major and unforeseen change in the weather which would put the currents toward us, we still have to deal with it now,” Hunsicker said.

The Department of Natural Resources is working on a beach renourishment project for later this year before a 2012 deadline to get some beach-quality sand from Tampa Bay before the Port Dolphin natural gas pipe project begins there.

Hunsicker, whose department is also the lead local agency in dealing with the oil spill, said he has not had time to think about the deadline regarding the beach-quality sand. The fact that the sand down there might be covered in tar balls from the oil spill when they get to it complicates things.

“It is possible that a vacuum system could be used to pick up the tar balls from the floor,” he said. “The system would have to be low pressure, similar to the trucks you see on the Island cleaning out storm drains.”

Hunsicker said that the renourishment plans might be pushed back.

“We’re working with the DEP (Florida Department of Environmental Protection) to leverage our permit review of the renourishment,” he said. “It is tedious work and it might push the project into next year, instead of later this year.”

For now, however, Hunsicker is keeping his eye on the oil coming from the other end of the Gulf of Mexico and wondering how bad it will affect us and how long he will have to deal with it.

City approves special events despite dissent
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/MAGGIE FIELD The Gulf Drive Café will be
allowed to hold events in the new chickee hut for
Mother's Day, Memorial Day and Father's Day.

BRADENTON BEACH – Gulf Drive Café will be able to hold three special events on the beach in its newly built chickee hut even though it hasn’t begun construction on the tiki hut that will go between the chickee hut and the restaurant.

That was decided at the city commission meeting on Thursday, May 6, after Commissioner Janie Robertson removed the requests for special events for Mother’s Day, Memorial Day and Father’s Day from the consent agenda. When the three requests came up as new business, she said she did not want to be a wet blanket, but she had problems with the circumstances surrounding the requests.

“When the plan to expand (the Gulf Drive Café) was presented, it was never presented as a phased-in project and yet only the chickee hut is done,” she said to Gulf Drive Café events organizer and former Bradenton Beach City Commissioner Pete Barreda, who said they are working on the tiki hut now.

“This is a beautiful facility that will bring in lots of people and provide jobs for a lot of people who really need them,” Barreda said. “In my opinion, the Kokolises (George and Wendy, who own the business) have complied with everything that has been asked of them.”

Robertson said that the space where the tiki hut will go is now a construction site and the public should be barred from it.

“You have to understand that the liability is on the Gulf Drive Café,” Barreda answered. “We have the proper insurance and we have fencing up to keep people off the rocks.”

Bradenton Beach Building Official Steve Gilbert added his thoughts regarding whether the restaurant should be able to hold a special event in the chickee hut.

“There is a difference between development approval and building plan ap proval,” he said. “In essence, this is not a phased development. You just have several structures on one site.”

Gilbert said he still needs the fire department to get out to the site and establish a maximum number of people allowed under the chickee hut roof.

Commissioner Gay Breuler said she did not understand Robertson’s problem with the project.

“My problem is the entire site is not complete and now they’re looking to hold a party,” Robertson said.

The commission decided to approve the three events with the stipulation that they get the fire department out to set a limit on the number of people in the chickee hut and a floorplan showing where the table and chairs will go. Robertson voted against the approval.

In other action, the commission approved the annual Fourth of July Fireworks Display on July 3 at the BeachHouse and the charter review committee’s changes to the charter. Those changes, while minor, will go on the November ballot.

City Attorney Ricinda Perry also recommended that the city do a major review and revision of its land development code and update its employee handbook with a new sexual harassment provision and a hostile workplace section.

Hair donated to collect oil
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/MAGGIE FIELD Veterinary assistant Leslie Falcone
(above) with Timmy, a Bichon Frise, and groomer Jan Gamble.

HOLMES BEACH – Not so long ago, the hair from haircuts and from dog groomers was an annoyance and trash, but with hundreds of thousands of gallons of sweet crude oil drifting around the Gulf, a little known program has come to the forefront. It’s called “Matter of Trust” and it is a hair mat oil spill program.

One of the Island’s newest hair salons, called Salon Salon, is one of several hair cutting facilities that is now packaging the hair that falls from your head to the floor and sending it to a collection point, where it is stuffed into nylon tubes. The tubes are then put into water containing oil from a spill and it is successful in culling the oil from the water.

“We actually started collecting the hair when we first opened,” said stylist and manager Nikita Fosmore. “We’re trying to promote it by asking people to come in now and get their hair trimmed.”

Fosmore said that there is a website – – that explains how the hair mats work.

“The people behind the program sent e-mails to more than 360,000 salons and to pet groomers to let them know there is something they can do that would help with the oil spill cleanup,” she said. “They are also collecting used nylons, which they stuff with hair to make the mats.”

Salon Salon is located at 3612 East Bay Drive. Call them at 778-0400.

Leslie Falcone works at Beach Veterinary Clinic at 4404 124th St. Ct. W., in Cortez. She has been collecting hair from animal trimming.

“I heard about the program from a story on the news and said to myself, ‘Hey, I work at a vet’s office, I could do that,’ ” she said. “So far, I have five big, black trash bags full of hair.”

Falcone said that animal hair works the same as human hair. According to the website, all hair donated should be clean, although it does not have to be shampooed the same day it is cut.

People wanting to donate to this program can call their barber or stylist to find out if they participate. Falcon said she made up signs at the vet’s office so customers would know they participate. She said it is also a nice touch for those who don’t know about the program.

“The sign lets clients know that they are participating in a program that can do some good,” Falcone said.

You can call 792-2838 to reach Beach Veterinary Clinic.

The Paw Spa, 778-0885, also participates by sending hair from dog grooming to Matter of Trust.

Oil impacting fishing industry

Local commercial and recreational fishermen are reeling from the threat of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The National Marine Fisheries Service has progressively closed fisheries as the oil spreads through the northern Gulf of Mexico, affecting local commercial fishermen who are in that area.

As the oil drifts with the currents and winds, closures could affect more and more local fishermen, commercial and recreational alike.

The loop current may keep the oil away from our coastline - or not, Cortez recreational fishing guide Capt. Zach Zacharias said.

If oil gets too close to local shores, “They can shut down state waters. If that happens, I basically don’t have a charter fishing business,” said Capt. Wayne Genthner of Wolfmouth Charters on Longboat Key, calling the oil spill “100 percent lethal” to his business.

Even without outright closures, reduced bag limits could cripple the industry, and fisheries would be slow to recover from oil damage that would affect bottom growth right on up the food chain, he said.

No one has cancelled their fishing trips yet, Genthner said, “but I haven’t had a call in four days. And I won’t be upgrading my equipment. Why should I buy new equipment if I don’t know if I’ll be able to fish? That money is taken out of the marketplace.”

Genthner said he would consider a lawsuit over business loss and boat damage. Commercial fishermen filed a $5 million suit in U.S. District Court in New Orleans shortly after the April 20 accident against BP, Transocean, owner of the rig, and Halliburton Energy Services, which helped construct the oil well. Florida law firms have joined a network of firms organized by the plaintiff’s Louisiana attorney.

Commercial fishing concerns

“It sure is a scary thing because we can’t seem to get a grip on it to contain it,” said Karen Bell of A.P. Bell Fish Co., which had boats fishing south of the spill last week and boats fishing off Panama City when the Deepwater Horizon accident occurred on April 20.

The fish house can’t get oysters from Louisiana, and grouper is getting harder to come by, she said.

Many Cortez commercial fishermen have applied to BP’s Vessel of Opportunity Program to be hired to lay booms should the oil approach local coastlines, said Glen Brooks, president of the Gulf Fishermen’s Association, who is certified as a first responder to oil spill emergencies.

“We would want to capture it as far offshore as we could,” he said, “but it’s a wait and see thing.”

Specifications of local boats and captains have been forwarded for pre-approval to BP, which will provide booms and supplies for the project.

Fishermen are concerned that the chemical dispersing agent being used to congeal the oil into tar balls may hide the problem without fixing it.

“We learned in oil spill school you don’t put anything on it to make it sink. You want it to come to the top and evaporate on its own or be scooped up,” Brooks said. “Once it sinks, you can’t track it like you can when it’s on top.”

Seafood safe, available

For the time being, Florida seafood is safe, according to state consumer officials. Traditional food safety controls have been strengthened by additional emergency response plans, including chemical contaminant testing and pre-event monitoring of water and products for later comparison, according to John Stevely, Florida Sea Grant marine extension agent in Palmetto.

Officials advise against eating fish that look distressed, have been found dead, or have an oily, fuel-like odor, either when raw or cooked, and advise recreational fishermen to avoid areas with obvious signs of oil contamination on the surface of the water or on neighboring beaches and vegetation.

Most Florida seafood is still readily available on the market, said Joe Rogers, manager of the Chiles Group of restaurants, although oysters and shrimp may increase in price due to a shortage caused by closed areas off Louisiana.

Wildlife, plants at high risk from oil
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Least tern eggs blend in with the sands of Anna Maria Island.

The start of sea turtle and bird nesting season is a particularly bad time for an oil event, according to wildlife experts.

Locally, the first nesting turtle arrived on Longboat Key on May 4, and threatened shorebirds have been nesting on Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key since late April.

“At this time we are holding tight and just continuing with our daily survey walks looking for the nests left by female sea turtles on our shore,” said Suzi Fox, of Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Protection in Bradenton Beach, the designated group for local sea turtle rescue efforts.

Turtle Watch will team up with Wildlife Inc. Education and Rehabilitation of Bradenton Beach, which has been selected by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s designated expert, Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research, to take charge of local bird rescue efforts, Fox said.

People should leave bird rescue to the experts, advised Gail Straight of Wildlife Inc., who helped rescue birds in Pinellas County after a tanker spilled 330,000 gallons of oil into Tampa Bay in 1993.

“We’re overwhelmed with calls from volunteers,” she said, but workers must have training to deal with frightened birds with sharp beaks, and wear heavy gloves, masks and suits to protect them from the caustic oil. “You can’t just take birds home and wash them in the sink.”

Oil’s effects on living things

Oil is toxic to people and other living things, including fish, wildlife and vegetation, according to Carli Segelson, spokesperson for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg, who detailed worst case scenarios:

• Birds that contact oil become dehydrated, emaciated and lose the ability to regulate body temperature. If they ingest oil in prey, they may not be able to absorb food and water, leading to organ failure and death.
• Oil on nesting beaches is toxic to sea turtle eggs. Sea turtles are forced to surface through floating oil to breathe. Highly sensitive to oil, turtles often die after direct exposure or ingestion of tar balls. More than 30 dead sea turtles washed up on Mississippi beaches last week.
• Manatees and dolphins also have high exposure to floating oil due to inhaling air at the surface, which can lead to skin and eye irritation, burns, infections and death. They ingest oil by consuming affected prey or plants, which can be deadly. Oil on manatee whiskers, which help them sense food, can damage their ability to find it, leading to starvation.
• Oil exposure to fish in all life stages can lead to death, especially in spawning areas.
• Chemical dispersants used to congeal oil can cause respiratory problems including emphysema, as well as bleeding ulcers, liver and kidney damage and reproductive failure in wildlife.
• Mangroves are highly susceptible to oil exposure, losing leaves and failing to germinate.
• Seagrass often survives oil exposure, but organisms living in seagrass, such as scallops, crabs and other bottom dwellers, usually do not.

Cleanup efforts

Another threat to wildlife is well-meaning people who are trampling bird nests and removing nesting materials like vegetation and driftwood in their beach cleanup efforts, said Nancy Douglass, regional nongame wildlife biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Audubon of Florida recommends staying below the tide line, avoiding seagrass beds, leaving natural debris in place, removing only man-made litter and avoiding the use of rakes, shovels, tractors and ATVs.

More people are needed to monitor the coast for oil than to do pre-event cleanups, according to Sarasota Audubon.

People who live along or are visiting coastal communities can watch for oiled beaches, wildlife and vegetation by becoming a Coast Watch volunteer. Coast Watchers are not permitted to enter off-limits areas to obtain observations and cannot make contact with oiled wildlife, vegetation, and beaches due to health concerns associated with contact. Coast Watchers do not require any special training or registration, but should be knowledgable about the coastal environment in their community.

To volunteer, call 1-866-448-5816 or visit

Stock analysis predicts oil spill worse than Valdez

An analysis of BP by Morgan Stanley predicts that the Deepwater Horizon oil spill’s costs will exceed that of the Exxon Valdez in Alaska.

Cleanup costs could be higher, about $3.5 billion compared to $2 billion for the Valdez, and fines could make the BP spill even more costly, according to the report, supplied by Holmes Beach Commissioner David Zaccagnino, a Morgan Stanley advisor.

The stock analysis of BP, issued 10 days after the spill, reported a projected $3.5 billion in costs if the cleanup process takes six months, with BP responsible for 65 percent of the costs, or $2 billion. The other partners in the license are Anadarko (25 percent) and Mitsui (10 percent).

The litigation award against Exxon was $287 million for actual damages and $5 billion for punitive damages, which was scaled back to $508 million in 2008, the report states.

Key considerations in calculating the cost of the Deepwater Horizon event include how long it takes for the leak to be stopped, the cost and timing of the cleanup, who is deemed responsible and the success of litigation, according to the report.

Sarasota Bay Watch cleans up Sister Keys
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

volunteers cleaned up nearly a ton of trash from the
Sister Keys, off Longboat Key, in the Second Annual
Sister Keys Clean Up on Saturday.

Sarasota Bay Watch conducted its Second Annual Sister Keys Clean Up on Saturday, May 8, 2010. More than 80 participants gathered close to a ton of trash during the morning event. The volunteers were treated to a complimentary lunch by Ed Chiles and the Chiles Group, under the buttonwood trees bayside at the Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant on Longboat Key.

Public Works employees Curtis Vandermolin, Lloyd Hines, James Linkogle and Dale Wyman provided invaluable logistical support while David Miller of Cannons Marina and Longbeach Village Association President Michael Drake provided transportation to and from Sister Keys aboard one of the Marina's custom deck boats. Sarasota Bay Watch would like to thank Audubon, the Sarasota Bay Guardians, Around the Bend Nature Tours and the Snook Foundation for their support.

A special nod to Officer Dennis Silvero of the Longboat Key Police, who stood guard along the Intracoastal Waterway.

Ethics complaint lodged against Stoltzfus

Valarie Fernandez, an attorney representing Pine Avenue Restoration, has complained to city officials that Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus’ one-way memos and blog postings are in violation of the state’s public records and open meetings laws, which are known collectively as the Sunshine Laws.

Stoltzfus has frequently sent one-way memos to Commission Chair John Quam and to other commissioners about thoughts he has concerning parking in the city’s residential/office/retail district.

He has also posted them to, a blog that is used primarily to lobby against development.

“Using the public read file to lobby fellow commissioners as well as planning and zoning board members on issues properly discussed in noticed public meetings is, at best questionable,” the attorney’s letter to the commission and mayor states.

There are further complaints that posting the Stoltzfus memos to the blog is problematic.

“This is, frankly, an outrageous attempt to use evasive devices to circumvent the Sunshine Laws,” Fernandez wrote.

City Attorney Jim Dye has told commissioners that it’s OK to communicate using one-way memos as long as the memos are copied to the city clerk and made available to the public.

However, Fernandez, in her letter cites an opinion from the Florida Attorney General (AGO 2008-07,) which states that “The use of a website blog or message board to solicit comment from other members of a board or commission by their response on members of the board on matters that would come before the board would trigger the requirements of the Sunshine Law.”

The Attorney General further states that “The use of such an electronic means of posting one’s comments and the inherent availability of other participants or contributors to act as liaisons would create an environment that could easily become a forum for members of a board or commission to discuss official matters which should most appropriately be conducted at a public meeting in compliance with the Government in the Sunshine Law.”

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