Sarasota News Leader

08/30/2013

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Sarasota News Leader August 30, 2013 Page 44 The county, the state and the Army Corps of Engineers issued the permits for that closure, the lawsuit said, "on the condition that [the pass] be reopened in the future. Midnight Pass remains closed, resulting in ongoing harm to the water in Little Sarasota Bay, the property of thousands of homeowners, the economic livelihood of businesses that depend on tourism, fishing and boating, and the safety and well-being of the endangered Florida Manatee." Chairwoman Carolyn Mason just thanked Reid and Wreford for the update. Instead of appealing, Herbert told the News Leader, the plaintiffs chose to pursue the option to "sit down and talk turkey" with FDEP officials in light of the rules change. work that's been done." THE WAITING GAME … they couldn't be terribly committal." In an interview with the News Leader, Wreford noted that while the FDEP officials on Aug. 21 "certainly seem open" to considering the issue anew, the decision to pursue the application again rests with the County Commission. In an interview before his trip to Tallahassee, Wreford pointed out that the county withdrew its application in 2008 before DEP formally denied it. Therefore, he said, if the County Filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle Commission decided once more to seek the District of Florida in Tampa, the lawsuit was reopening of the channel, it might be possible voluntarily dismissed in July. to reactivate that previous application, saving The Notice of Dismissal, filed on April 26, not- the considerable expense of starting all over. ed that on March 26, "the court dismissed the "It's a huge investment in that application," case against all state defendants on sovereign Herbert concurred. If it could be resubmitimmunity grounds. Without [them], the court ted, he added, new fees would be avoided and may not be able to afford plaintiffs the relief the action would "potentially salvage a huge they sought," the notice added. amount of the environmental and engineering Still, as Wreford pointed out in the Aug. 22 email, "the next step would be to schedule formal pre-application meetings with FDEP and He pointed out that county representatives with the Federal review agencies, with particalso had felt DEP was unfair in its handling ular focus on the National Marine Fisheries of the application in 2008, but they decided and the Fish and Wildlife Service." not to pursue legal action then because of the Referring to the FDEP officials, he told the expense. News Leader last week, "As expected, really The only county commissioner to comment at length after receiving the Wreford email forwarded by Reid last week was Vice Chairman Charles Hines. "I say … let's keep this on or put it on our 'to do' list," he wrote Reid on Aug. 22. "Just not sure of the timing of when this should or could be picked back up with all of the other pending projects." "It's not a done deal," Herbert conceded. "Our only attempt … was not to leave any stone unturned." As for the pass itself, he said, "It's still a pale shadow of what it used to be and what it could be. … You plug an inlet like that and … Mother Nature [will react]. She's making the best of a bad situation." %

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