A blog dealing with Sarasota County and the City of Sarasota.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

DEP Fail at Lido Key Nourishment Public Hearing/Meeting

DEP's performance at the Waldemere Fire Station did not inspire confidence in the state agency charged with minding the shore. 

Where to start?  

1) Contrary to the official notice/advertisement, the meeting did NOT provide "an overview of the proposed Lido Key Nourishment Project ". Instead, there was a excessively brief, un-illustrated summary. When I say brief, I mean 78 seconds -- rather than an overview, it was more of an underview. A newcomer would have learned very little. 

2) What a crowd scene - I was almost surprised the Fire Marshall didn't intervene. The acoustics, combined with the crush of people eager for more information made it very difficult to get information. Many people were reduced to eavesdropping while agency staff interacted one-on-one. 

3) Near-complete failure to supply enough materials. They ran out of handouts. Some agency staff ran out of business cards. They even, and this is both embarrassing and tragic, ran out of comment forms. A spokesman said they brought "two or three hundred" (which seems unlikely), but their inability to plan for lots of interested citizens from both Lido and Siesta reflects agency misunderstanding of the level of controversy surrounding this project. 

4) Many of the graphics displayed contained stale information that no longer reflect what is being proposed. One would think the agencies would have the courtesy to show up with displays that reflect what is currently being considered, but they didn't. Areas no longer being considered for dredging were shown the same as areas still being considered. 

5) No station for Sarasota County. Like it or not, Sarasota County (which has requested an EIS and been rebuffed by the Corps) is a major player in this Project, but there was no County table. 

6) No one could tell me how to access online the most current information being processed by DEP. I was promised that link would be sent to me, and I suppose it will, but shouldn't that have been advertised for all?

7) Although they ran out of comment sheets, no one offered me the option of recording my comments, as was promised in the introductory comments. 

8) I received contradictory information at two different stations. At one I was told the assessment of impacted seagrass would be locked in with the data in the application. In other words, there would be no adjustment at the time dredging would start to figure out if seagrass extent had increased or decreased. A Corps rep. suggested that's not how its usually done, but that it is going to be DEP's permit. 

9) Perhaps most important --billed as a "hearing/meeting" the event bore no correlation to a hearing. A hearing is an organized process in which everyone gets to hear a presentation and then the assembled public gets to hear everyone's concerns or support. 

Why are real hearings better than the chaotic stations-with-tables format we were subjected to? 

a) In a hearing, everyone is getting identical information from the agencies. Having a shared starting point is a big advantage in any contentious issue. At this meeting NO two people received the same information. 

b) In a hearing, everyone is hearing the concerns of the public. The potential for working towards a compromise or consensus has its roots in understanding and appreciating the concerns/needs of the other side. If Siesta Key residents never hear the passion and desperation of Lido Key residents, how will they be moved to work collaboratively towards a solution (and vice versa)?

c) In a hearing, the various agency people get to hear what the other agencies are espousing -- which couldn't happen with tonight's format. That would have helped surface and resolve the issue regarding exactly when seagrass will be measured. 

Meanwhile, while we were meeting, a series from the Naples News was starting to make the rounds. Called Shrinking Shores: How Florida leaders are failing the state's famous beaches, the multipart article includes an interactive map feature that shows critically eroded beaches in red and building permits issued. While it is not clear whether DEP was involved in all the permits, or whether the start date was 1980 or 1989, the map makes it clear local governments have been allowing coastal development despite the challenges faced on our Gulf. 

Building permits on Lido Key

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