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Environmentalists object to Hernando Beach dredging project's spoils site

BROOKSVILLE — A coalition of environmental groups has written to Gov. Charlie Crist and other federal, state and local officials to oppose the use of the county's first choice of a spoils site for the Hernando Beach Channel dredging project.

The group, which includes Audubon of Florida, the Gulf Coast Conservancy, the Gulf Restoration Network and the Nature Coast Sierra Club, cites environmental concerns about use of the Eagle Nest Drive site owned by the Cliff Manuel family.

"We have serious concerns that the original (permit) and the Eagle Nest Drive/Manuel property disposal site will negatively impact wetlands, will cause coastal ecosystem degradation and will negatively affect state resources like the Minnow Creek, Seagrass Canal and Mullet Canal,'' they wrote.

The housing development planned at the site after the dredged materials are placed there, the letter states, would be "environmentally damaging.'' The groups question whether local, state and federal rules and policies would be violated by a development in an area at risk to damage from high winds and flooding during a major storm.

The group urges the county to dump the material on an alternative site on Shoal Line Boulevard, which used to be a county wastewater treatment plant. The state Department of Environmental Protection last week issued its pre-permit for the county to use that alternative site.

The DEP previously had issued a pre-permit for the controversial Eagle Nest Drive site, but residents challenged that site. Their challenge comes before an administrative law judge in a hearing next week.

The Hernando County Commission met behind closed doors Tuesday to discuss their litigation strategy for those hearings with the new attorney they retained to help them, Richard Brightman of the Tallahassee law firm of Hopping, Green & Sams, P.A.

Because of the specific rules that govern what can be discussed in a closed-door meeting, County Administrator David Hamilton said the group only talked about the Eagle Nest Drive site because it is the site facing the legal challenge. While Manuel's attorney Jake Varn has said that there are some who will challenge the Shoal Line site, no formal challenge has been made.

County officials are moving ahead with both sites so that they can get at least one permitted in time to bid the project in March. The project must be bid by March to finish it in time to collect $6-million in state money for the $9-million dredging project.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1434.

Environmentalists object to Hernando Beach dredging project's spoils site 01/21/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 21, 2009 6:53pm]
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