Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Corps transfers Ridge Road extension permit review process to Tampa office

NEW PORT RICHEY — After more than a decade of review, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Tuesday handed down a long-awaited decision on the proposed Ridge Road extension:

Not a yes, not a no, but a "withdrawn."

In short, that means the Corps is no longer reviewing the application. To jump-start that process, Pasco would have to resubmit plans for the $129 million project.

That's more tough news for the county — though not nearly as bad as the denial that the Corps was prepared to issue.

"I don't think the county would've appreciated the type of decision we would've had to make," said Charles Schnepel, the Corps' chief of the regulating section in Tampa.

The two-phase project would link Ridge Road to the Suncoast Parkway, and then on to U.S. 41, creating another east-west hurricane evacuation route. But the highway would cut through the Serenova Preserve, a 6,000-acre patch of wilderness, and that forms the heart of environmentalists' objections.

The Corps had expected a lawsuit whatever its final decision — the county would have sued over a rejection; environmentalists would have sued over an approval — but its action this week kicks the matter back to Pasco officials.

The Ridge Road project is thought to be the longest running permit application in Corps history, and county officials say they believe that Corps leaders in Washington were pressing the district officials to make a decision of some sort.

"The impression I got from him (Schnepel) was that he was getting pressure to make a decision from his own chain of command," said Pasco's chief assistant county administrator, Michele Baker.

She said Corps officials have told her she won't have to start from scratch. She said the county is getting a year to put together its plans for compensating for the loss of wetlands during the road's construction.

"Certainly this is a setback, but they're saying to me this doesn't mean I have to start over," she said. "I'm proceeding as if they didn't withdraw."

Schnepel said his agency had reassigned the case from the Jacksonville office to the Tampa office to make it easier to "quickly meet and address questions that may arise."

"The county knows there are issues that need to be worked on," he said. "As soon as we get some additional information, we'll be more than happy to put it out to public notice again."

Both Schnepel and Baker said the crucial outstanding issue is locking down how the county will make up for the destruction of wetlands.

As currently envisioned, that wetlands mitigation plan calls for putting an 804-acre parcel at 4G Ranch into conservation to make up for the destruction of wetlands. Pasco and 4G Ranch owner Bill Phillips had finally worked out a deal that would have allowed him to maintain farming and hunting rights on that parcel, said Baker.

But the Corps' lawyers had objected to the terms of the agreement, she said, and Pasco ran out of time to renegotiate with Phillips. Baker said the county will proceed with that angle or may consider other options.

"We've got a year to get it straightened out," she said.

Baker said she feels good about the decision to reassign the Ridge Road case to another Corps office.

"We're starting with someone fresh," she said.

State Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, who last month sent a letter to the Corps urging support of the project, was less upbeat than Baker in his interpretation of the Corps' decision Tuesday.

"I believe they don't want the project," Fasano said. "They keep punting."

The Corps strongly hinted the project was in some jeopardy back in September. In a Sept. 8 letter to county officials, the Army Corps said the county's 2001 analysis, which has been subsequently updated, assumed from the get-go that extending Ridge Road was the most practical and least environmentally damaging option without adequate proof.

Corps officials said then that the county needed to come up with that justification or they would consider the application withdrawn.

Jodie Tillman can be reached at jtillman@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6247.

Corps transfers Ridge Road extension permit review process to Tampa office 11/30/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 30, 2010 8:43pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tampa Bay Times honored for top investigative story in Gerald Loeb annual business awards

    Business

    The Tampa Bay Times was a co-winner in the investigative category for one of the highest honors in business journalism.

    Tampa Bay Times current and former staff writers William R. Levesque, Nathaniel Lash and Anthony Cormier were honored in the investigative category for their coverage of "Allegiant Air" in the 60th Anniversary Gerald Loeb Awards for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism. 
[JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times

]

  2. Pasco woman gives birth to child fathered by 11 year old, deputies say

    Crime

    A Port Richey woman was arrested Tuesday, nearly three years after deputies say she gave birth to a child fathered by an 11-year-old boy.

    Marissa Mowry, 25, was arrested Tuesday on charges she sexually assaulted an 11-year-old and gave birth to his child. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
  3. For good of the Rays, Tim Beckham should embrace move to second

    The Heater

    PITTSBURGH — The acquisition of slick-fielding shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria said a lot of things, most notably that the Rays are serious about making in-season moves to bolster their chances to make the playoffs, with a reliever, or two, next on the shopping list.

    PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 27:  Tim Beckham #1 of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrates with teammates after scoring during the eighth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on June 27, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) 700011399
  4. St. Petersburg showdown: Kriseman faces Baker for first time tonight at the Rev. Louis Murphy Sr.'s church

    Local Government

    A standing-room-only crowd packed a Midtown church banquet hall Tuesday to witness the first face-off between Mayor Rick Kriseman and former mayor Rick Baker in what is a watershed mayoral contest in the city's history.

    Former Mayor Rick Baker, left, is challenging incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman, right, to become St. Petersburg mayor.
  5. At College World Series, the save goes to an LSU dad/doctor

    College

    OMAHA, Neb. — The father of LSU pitcher Jared Poche' helped revive an 87-year-old man who was slumped on the TD Ameritrade Park concourse with no pulse during Game 1 of the College World Series finals.

    UF’s Tyler Dyson delivers against LSU in Tuesday’s late CWS Game 2. Go to tampabay.com/sports.