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Marina sues Dunedin, Pinellas County over rising sediment in Curlew Creek

DUNEDIN — Pirate's Cove Marina has filed a lawsuit asking Dunedin and Pinellas County to clean up their act.

The marina's owners say muck has built up in Curlew Creek to the point that it's hurting their 43-year-old boat navigation and mooring business, and they believe the city and county should bear some of the cost of fixing it.

The lawsuit states that Pirate's Cove, located at 2400 N Bayshore Blvd. near the Dunedin Country Club, has been dishing out cash for years to dredge Curlew Creek.

The marina's attorney acknowledges that it's typical for a marina to dredge to maintain proper water depth. However, in recent years the cost has escalated as sediment piles up more quickly, a side effect of the city and county's increased use of Curlew Creek for stormwater drainage, the suit claims.

Photos filed with the lawsuit claim to show so much sediment that the low-tide water depth around the marina has decreased from an average of 5 feet to zero.

Pirate's Cove attorney David Bacon said he didn't have specific figures on how much the marina has spent on dredging and creek maintenance. But he said his clients "simply can't afford to dredge it any further without help."

The 19-page complaint, filed in late June in Pinellas Circuit Court, asks for a jury trial and damages in excess of $15,000. But Bacon says a payout isn't what his client is after.

Rather, Bacon said, the goal is to have the creek's depth returned to normal levels through removal of the allegedly stormwater-related sediment, to develop a system for maintaining depth in the future, and to have the courts decide which party — or combination thereof — should bear the ongoing costs.

"This really is not a lawsuit accusing anyone of doing wrong. It's a lawsuit describing a problem that all the parties share and asking the court to determine who has responsibility to correct that problem," Bacon said.

Attorney Jay Daigneault, representing Dunedin, said the city had only recently received the lawsuit and was still investigating the claims.

"At this time, we don't believe the city has any liability," he said, adding that silt in the creek is "a naturally occurring process."

The Pinellas County Attorney's Office had no comment on the pending litigation.

Bacon said he's hopeful that an answer from the courts will help everyone involved. For example, he said, the creek won't be effective for stormwater drainage if it's filled with sediment.

Curlew Creek "needs to be used for both stormwater and navigation. To be used properly, it requires maintenance, and maintenance means dredging," he said. "So we're asking, does the city and/or county have some responsibility to participate in that dredging and maintenance activity?"

Keyonna Summers can be reached at ksummers@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4153.

Marina sues Dunedin, Pinellas County over rising sediment in Curlew Creek 08/04/11 [Last modified: Thursday, August 4, 2011 7:23pm]
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