Sarasota News Leader

04/25/2014

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the project, he said. They will not harm Siesta Key, he insisted — with no solid models or analysis at the time to back him up. The smugness was not evident, though, when he addressed the two local government boards. However, that agenda item began with a con- sultant for Visit Sarasota County presenting slides showing the annual $155 million impact Lido Key Beach has on the county's economy. Worry about losing that money clearly was etched on the face of Virginia Haley, president of Visit Sarasota County. The threat to the commissions was evident: If you do not do this project as the COE has planned it, you will suffer greatly. By the time Mora appeared before the SKA audience in early December, his attitude at times was that of a parent chiding children. "This is the way it has to be," he essentially told the crowd, which included Lido res- idents, "unless you want man-made Lido Beach to disappear." No wonder the crowd's ire mounted as the meeting went on that evening. It was left to DavisShaw, again, to stress that the federal agency's analysis and models regarding the dredging of Big Pass and the construction of the groins would undergo peer review and that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection would take a very careful look at the plans as well. What has prompted one organization after another on Siesta Key to protest facets of the COE plan as Mora has outlined them has been the sheer uncertainty of their impacts on Siesta Key. Is it worth creating a fiasco on one island just to lessen erosion on another? For at least the past three fiscal years, Siesta Key has collected more Tourist Development Tax revenue than any other location in the county — including the City of Sarasota, in which Lido Beach is just one tourist desti- nation. In the 2013 fiscal year, which ended on Sept. 30, 2013, Siesta had total collec- tions of $4,773,981.52. That figure surpassed collections for all of the city by more than $200,000, according to the Sarasota County Tax Collector's Office. In all this discussion, we have seen no one with the county or city provide documenta- tion showing the total economic impact Siesta Key has on the community. We wholeheartedly support Siesta residents and business owners who want to protect their island and their livelihoods. The County and City commissions, as we see it, have no choice but to find a highly qualified, highly respected person with a scientific background to conduct a peer review of the Army Corps of Engineers models and analysis. In the meantime, when we consider all those assurances Milan A. Mora has provided the public with no science to support them, we remain mindful of the tagline for the 1986 horror film The Fly: "Be afraid. Be very afraid." % OPINION Sarasota News Leader April 25, 2014 Page 80

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