Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pasco officials seek Army Corps' blessing on revised SunWest plans

Federal regulators are again seeking public input on the proposed 4-mile channel at the SunWest mine property in Aripeka.

This week the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers outlined key changes to the controversial dredging project and said people have until Sept. 19 to submit comments. Afterward, the agency will consider the input and decide whether to issue a permit to Pasco County to dredge the channel.

The plan is to expand an existing channel that would be shared by boaters launching from a future county park and residents of a proposed 2,500-home luxury development called SunWest Harbourtowne. The county park would provide access to the gulf via seven boat ramps and 250 boat parking spaces.

Changes to the project seem designed to win over skeptical corps officials who in May said they were leaning against issuing a permit. They include:

• Narrowing the channel's bottom width from 65 feet to 60 feet, as corps officials suggested. County officials have said for months that isn't a problem.

• Setting aside nearly 1,000 acres of "seagrass protection zones" to help offset the seagrass that would be damaged by the project. Motorized boats would be prohibited from crossing these protected seagrass beds. This proposal would offset the 4 to 5 acres of damage that corps officials told the county to address in a May 16 letter.

That letter also said the corps would provide "no compensatory mitigation credit" for establishing seagrass protection zones. But Michele Baker, chief assistant county administrator, said the Corps has issued permits in the past using this preservation tactic. Notable projects include the Hudson channel and Port Manatee.

"Not only have we used it previously, and quite successfully," she said, "but (the Corps has) permitted other projects in the west central gulf region."

Baker said there would be signs warning boaters about the protected areas at "logical entry points," such as markers on the edge of the channel. There would also be educational signs at boat ramps. Boaters who ignore the signs could get a ticket from the Pasco sheriff's marine patrol or state wildlife protection officers.

"It is an enforceable zone," she said. "And we will enforce it."

The revised application includes 992 acres of seagrass split into four protected areas. Two areas totaling almost 400 acres are next to the proposed SunWest channel. The rest are near the Anclote River in Holiday, just west of the county's Anclote River Park. That area would include signs marking a channel for boaters who want to travel north and south between two large seagrass beds.

The proposed dredging project would damage 28 acres of seagrass. The seagrass protection areas would offset about 5 acres of damage, while the remaining 23 acres of damage would be offset through a variety of seagrass and habitat restoration projects along Pasco's coastline.

Mac Davis, president of the environmental group Gulf Coast Conservancy, said he hasn't had time to thoroughly study the project's new summary, though he will submit a detailed response. Davis said the agency to watch is the National Marine Fisheries Service, which has been highly critical of the project.

"If those guys get on board, then it's probably a done deal," he said. "If (agency officials) restate their complaints, then we're probably not any further along than we were in April and May."

Lee Logan can be reached at or (727) 869-6236.

.fast facts

Submit your thoughts

For a summary of the project, go to Submit comments by Sept. 19 to project manager Mindy Hogan-Charles of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Mail comments to 10117 Princess Palm Ave., Suite 120, Tampa, FL 33610, email to or fax to (813) 769-7061.

Pasco officials seek Army Corps' blessing on revised SunWest plans 09/05/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 5, 2012 9:20pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Jordan Spieth wins British Open (w/ video)


    SOUTHPORT, England — Someday, perhaps soon, there will be a plaque at Royal Birkdale for Jordan Spieth, much like the one off the 16th hole that celebrates Arnold Palmer and the 6-iron he slashed out of the rough in 1961 to win the British Open and usher in a new era of golf.

    Matt Kuchar plays out of the bunker on the 18th hole and finishes with bogey for 1-under 69. He had a one-shot lead after 13 holes.
  2. Fennelly: Brutal weekend could be start of something worse for Rays

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Well, that was lovely.

    Brad Boxberger suffers his second loss in the three-game series, this time by allowing back-to-back homers in the eighth inning when called on to protect a 5-3 lead. “Just bad pitches,” he says.
  3. Wesley Chapel hockey camp impresses youth players, parents

    Lightning Strikes

    WESLEY CHAPEL — As a 17-year-old Triple-A hockey player, MacCallum Brown regularly plays against elite talent. As a Palm Harbor resident, he often has to travel to face that talent.

  4. Rays claim not to be panicking after third straight brutal loss to Rangers (w/ video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — There was no "here we go again" moment in the dugout as Rougned Odor's two-run homer in the eighth inning arced across Tropicana Field and toward the rightfield seats, even though when it landed, the score was tied and another late-inning Rays lead was blown.

    Rays third baseman Evan Longoria heads back to the dugout after fouling out in the ninth inning with the potential tying run on first.
  5. White House signals acceptance of Russia sanctions bill


    WASHINGTON — The White House indicated Sunday that President Donald Trump would accept new legislation imposing sanctions on Russia and curtailing his authority to lift them on his own, a striking turnaround after a broad revolt in Congress by lawmakers of both parties who distrusted his friendly approach to …

    President Donald Trump’s ability to lift sanctions against Russia would be blocked.