Siesta Seen

Questions linger about whether dredging would affect infrastructure that crosses Big Pass; a law firm’s relocation results in return of mail; Barrier Islands League back at work; crosswalk light repairs needed on Midnight Pass Road; and Condo Council to meet on Dec. 4

A graphic shows the potable water pipeline Robert Luckner discovered in his research. Image courtesy of Robert Luckner

With the Siesta Key Association (SKA) still pursuing a remedy in the 12thJudicial Circuit Court and Save Our Siesta Sand 2 (SOSS2) preparing to take action in federal court, a leader of the SKA’s Environmental Committee has told members of that nonprofit he is doubtful the City of Sarasota will see its long-range renourishment project getting underway on South Lido Key at any time next year.

In his Nov. 9 newsletter, City Manager Tom Barwin did write that he expected the work to begin in the fall of 2019, “pending ongoing legal challenges.”

Both of the Siesta-based organizations remain committed to preventing the dredging of Big Sarasota Pass for the sand to renourish about 1.6 miles of the critically eroded beach on South Lido.

During remarks Robert Luckner, the SKA Environmental Committee leader, made to members of that nonprofit on Nov. 8, he also talked of new issues that have popped up that he believes must be resolved before any dredging could proceed.

In the research he and his wife, Catherine — the SKA’s vice president — have pursued on the proposal of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the City of Sarasota to renourish South Lido, he has found something curious, he said. A freshwater pipeline that is 16 inches in diameter runs across the pass, he reported; it was laid in 2000, right next to the line it replaced.

On Oct. 1, Robert Luckner emailed Sarasota City Engineer Alexandrea DavisShaw information about his discovery, including a city map to illustrate his concern.

A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sketch in materials submitted to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection shows one sand borrow area proposed in Big Pass. Image courtesy FDEP

The “potable water line owned by the City … crosses from … Ted Sperling Park [on South Lido] to Siesta Key,” he noted. There, it connects to the water system for Bay Island, he continued, which is the northern part of Siesta and within the city limits.
“Interesting to me,” Luckner wrote, is that the only mention of crossings he had found in the USACE plans for the proposed dredging of Big Sarasota Pass “is a notation of a ‘cable crossing’ near the same area (see plate 18 attached). According to the cross-section near there (plate 21) the current water depth there is about 10 feet … and [the USACE] would be allowed to dredge to 13.5 feet.”

Luckner then posed several questions to DavisShaw. Among them, he asked how deep the newer water pipeline is and what steps the city, the USACE and their contractors would take to avoid it. He also inquiredabout the type of cable he had found on the map and what measures would be taken to avoid it, if the pass is dredged.

The response he received from the city, he told SKA members, was that no answer could be provided about the depth of the water pipeline because of “Homeland Security” issues.

DavisShaw first replied to Luckner via email on Oct. 2, saying she would check with the city’s Utilities staff and get back to him.

Then, after Luckner inquired again on Oct. 18, according to emails he shared with The Sarasota News Leader, DavisShaw wrote him again on Oct. 22. “I did contact the Corps to see if they were aware of it,” she told him, referring to the newer freshwater pipeline. “They are aware of it and as part of the design effort will get more detail on the facilities and locate them on the plans. As I see more detail on [the cable’s and pipeline’s] depth and location,” she added, “I’ll let you know what I learn.”

Luckner responded to her that same day: “This issue of depth …  for the cable, the new freshwater line and the old freshwater line [seems] like a fundamental design and permitting issue. I am surprised you have not yet investigated it especially since your Public Utilities staff assured me that you had already investigated it.”

And speaking of the Lido Renourishment Project …

Kevin S. Hennessy is the primary attorney for the Lido Key Residents Association in the SKA case. Photo from the Lewis, Longman & Walker website

Last year, when the 12thJudicial Circuit Court allowed the Lido Key Residents Association (LKRA) to intervene in the Siesta Key Association’s lawsuit against the City of Sarasota, to try to stop the dredging of Big Pass, the firm representing the LKRA was located in Bradenton.

Earlier this year, however, the News Leaderfound that Lewis, Longman & Walker had a new address — in St. Petersburg. The list of attorneys does not mention anyone in Bradenton, according to the News Leader’s research of the firm’s current website.

Apparently, the News Leader was not the only one surprised by the change of location.

Records in the docket for the SKA’s 12thCircuit Court case show that in October, the court tried to mail copies of an order in the case to Lewis, Longman & Walker at the Bradenton address. One copy went to Richard P. Green; the other, to Kevin Hennessy of the firm. Notations dated Nov. 2 in the docket state, “Mail Returned.”

New work for the Barrier Islands League

With the intensification of focus on red tide and its causes, SKA Vice President Catherine Luckner reported to members on Nov. 8 that members of the Barrier Islands League have begun a new collaboration to determine how best they might be able to help.

She reminded the audience that the League was very active several years ago in working on a Post-Disaster Response Plan (PDRP) that provides details about how property owners would be able rebuild on the barrier islands in the aftermath of a catastrophe such as a major hurricane strike.

The League members, along with the SKA, were the associations on North Manasota Key, Manasota Key and Casey Key.

The PDRP, she pointed out, “was required by the state, and we didn’t have one [in Sarasota County].”

Laird Wreford, the county’s coastal resources manager, facilitated the work of the Barrier Islands League on the plan, Luckner continued. “It was quite a good product,” she added of the group’s efforts.

This is a Karenia brevis cell. Image courtesy of Mote Marine Laboratory

“A big fear,” she pointed out, concerned how much flexibility people would have in constructing new homes. “We paid for a ‘white paper’ on it,” she said, referring to research by experts on the issues. As a result of the League’s efforts, she added, a couple of sentences from that white paper ended up in the state Building Code. Among them is the fact that if a property owner loses a house, but the foundation remains intact, the person can rebuild on that footprint. “So people felt secure then.”

“We’ve been meeting for the last three months,” she continued, referring to the red tide issues. Part of the focus has been on pinpointing state and local measures the group should seek to reduce the red tide bloom that has lingered off the west coast of Florida since October 2017.

The Nov. 14 report on red tide released by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) said that the red tide algae, Karenia brevis, “was observed in samples from and/or offshore of Pinellas to Monroe counties.” High concentrations, it noted — those exceeding 1 million cells per liter — were detected in waters in or offshore of Sarasota, Pinellas, Charlotte and Lee counties. Fish kills and respiratory irritation also were reported in Sarasota County, the report said.

One of the League members, Luckner told the SKA members, is a retired senior employee of the EPA. “He wrote a very nice paper.”

SKA Vice President Catherine Luckner. File photo

A big focus of the group, she indicated, is the desire to talk at length with legislators about implementing state inspection requirements for septic tanks, since such a law failed to win approval several years ago.

“Manasota Key is still completely on septic,” Luckner pointed out. Because of the “big beautiful trees” on that island, she said, residents have been reluctant to pursue installation of a sanitary sewer system, as that would necessitate removing trees.

She added, “Our next step is to ask the North Lido Residents Association” and an organization of residents on Longboat Key to join the League. All of the organizations, she pointed out, are dealing with red tide.

Repairing the crosswalk lights

When SKA President Gene Kusekoski asked at the end of the Nov. 8 meeting whether members had any questions, one woman spoke up about the lights being inoperative at the crosswalk near the Midnight Cove II condominium complex, which is located at 6327 Midnight Pass Road.

Kusekoski acknowledged that a plastic bag and tape were over the controls for that crosswalk.

“It’s a dangerous situation,” the woman pointed out.

Kusekoski told her he would contact the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), which installed the Midnight Pass crosswalks in late 2012.

He was a bit amused, he added, to see a bag over the head of the switching mechanism.

“At first, we thought it was Halloween mischief,” the woman responded.

Subsequently, both Kusekoski and the News Leader learned that even though FDOT installed the crosswalks, the maintenance of the equipment is a responsibility of Sarasota County.

The Midnight Pass Road crosswalks have lights that pedestrians may activate. File photo

Robert Fakhri, manager of the Traffic Engineering and Operations Division for the county, told the News Leaderthat staff had put in a work order to repair the flashers, as the unit that controlled them had died. FDOT had contacted his office, he said, after hearing from Kusekoski.

“We’re waiting for the equipment to come,” he told the News Leaderon Nov. 14. “We’re lucky,” he added, as it was expected to come in quickly.

On Nov. 19, he reported through county Communications staff, “As scheduled the new Rapid Rectangular Flashing Beacons were installed at the crosswalk on Friday, 11/16/18.”

Condo Council meeting set for Dec. 4

The Siesta Key Condominium council has scheduled a meeting at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 4, at Siesta Key Chapel on a variety of topics, the organization has announced.

The main speaker, Mike Angers of Brown and Brown Insurance Agency, will discuss Hurricane Michael in the context of its lessons regarding insurance coverage for associations and individual property owners, a news release says. He also will provide an update on legal issues regarding condominium insurance coverage, and he will talk about projections for the expense of insurance in coming years, the release adds.

A question-and-answer session will follow his remarks.

Other topics on the agenda are the Save Our Siesta Sand 2 federal lawsuit to try to stop the dredging of Big Sarasota Pass; information about the Holiday Lighting Contest; an update on the proposed Siesta Promenade project; and a Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office report.

Future Condo Council meetings are planned for Jan. 15 and Feb. 19, 2019, the release notes.

Siesta Key Chapel is located at 4615 Gleason Ave.