Advertisement
  1. News
  2. /
  3. Pasco

Sierra Club sues to block Pasco road project that cuts through nature preserve

The environmental group says a planned route shouldn’t traverse the Serenova Preserve.
The Sierra Club is suing federal environmental regulators to try to block the extension of Ridge Road in Pasco County through a nature preserve. [C.T. Bowen | Times]
The Sierra Club is suing federal environmental regulators to try to block the extension of Ridge Road in Pasco County through a nature preserve. [C.T. Bowen | Times]
Published Feb. 7
Updated Feb. 7

The Sierra Club is suing federal environmental regulators to block construction of the Ridge Road extension through a 6,533-acre nature preserve in Pasco County.

The suit was not unexpected. The environmental group had pledged a legal challenge to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit, and Pasco County already had retained outside legal counsel for the court fight.

The suit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Tampa, names U.S. Army Corps Commander Lt. Gen. Todd T. Semonite and Col. Andrew Kelly, of the corps’ Jacksonville district as defendants. Dan Rametta of Land O’ Lakes, a longtime opponent of the road project, joined the Sierra Club as a plaintiff.

Related: Pasco on verge of building Ridge Road Extension

The 59-page suit contends the corps issued the environmental permit Dec. 20 without requiring sufficient wildlife studies, a public hearing and inclusion of public comments prior to 2011. The permit, which Pasco County first applied for in the late 1990s, allowed the four-lane road to extend eight miles from its terminus at Moon Lake Road to the Suncoast Parkway and on to U.S. 41 in Land O’ Lakes.

The state acquired the Serenova Preserve — a former ranch earmarked for a massive residential subdivision and commercial development — in the 1990s to offset the environmental damage from construction of the Suncoast Parkway. As part of the acquisition, the state’s water management district did not object to Ridge Road’s path through the preserve.

The county has said the route is needed for hurricane evacuations, but opponents contend the road’s true mission is to further development in hard-to-access rural land.

The route east of the parkway goes through Lennar’s planned Angeline residential and commercial project that includes an 800-acre commerce park that already has attracted a proposed H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center expansion as its lead occupant.

Separately, Rametta and the Sierra Club are seeking an emergency injunction to halt the ongoing construction, saying gopher tortoise habitat on site is in imminent danger.

Related: Psco says there will be traffic on Ridge Road extension in 9 months

"I derive professional, aesthetic, spiritual, recreational, economic, informational and education benefits from observing the wildlife and their habitat within the Serenova Preserve,'' Rametta said in an affidavit.

Rametta said he has the gate code and permission to use a four-wheel drive on the Serenova property and said he encourages others to make use of the preserve.

Map of the planned Ridge Road Extension in Pasco County.

In an emailed statement, county spokesman Brendan Fitterer said the county does not comment on pending litigation but said "the Ridge Road Extension is a critically needed, additional east-west thoroughfare that has the potential to save lives during an emergency evacuation while providing enhanced connectivity and accessibility.

"Pasco County has taken great care with the design and environmental considerations of this project, including extensive bridging and numerous wildlife crossings designed to maintain habitat continuity,'' he said.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

  1. A "for sale" sign beckons Friday along Sixth Avenue N in the Kenwood area of St. Petersburg.
  2. Dale Massad appears in court for a motion hearing on his bond status on March 14 the at West Pasco Judicial Center in New Port Richey. Massad is charged with attempted murder after authorities said he shot at a Pasco County Sheriff's Office SWAT team.
  3. First Lady Casey DeSantis talks with students during the Hope for Healing a mental and substance abuse initiative held Roland Park K-8 School in Tampa, Florida on Thursday, May 16, 2019. Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said state officials worked closely with DeSantis to craft the new rule. OCTAVIO JONES | Times
  4. A wrong-way driver headed south in the northbound lanes of Interstate 75 in Pasco County caused a crash that resulted in the death of a 45-year-old motorcyclist, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.  Over a three-year period ending in 2018, the county averaged 97 traffic fatalities annually. [Florida Highway Patrol]
  5. New Port Richey City Hall
  6. Pasco School District headquarters in Land O' Lakes
  7. The attendance zones for Northwest, Gulf Highlands and Fox Hollow elementary schools would shift under a proposed rezoning that also includes the closing of Hudson Elementary.
  8. Brian Davison is chief executive officer of Equialt, which bought this Safety Harbor home in a tax deed sale. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission contends in a new lawsuit that EquiAlt is a Ponzi scheme, and Davison has diverted investor funds for his own lavish personal spending. Times (2015)
  9. Associate professor of biology Caitlin Gille leads the Pasco-Hernando State College faculty union, which challenged the school's public comment rules.  (Photo Courtesy of Caitlin Gille)
  10. The fields are set for the April municipal elections in Pasco County. Times (2012)
  11. The developers of Avalon Park West in Wesley Chapel are planning a $736 million downtown core to accompany nearly 2,700 residences and 355,000 square feet of commercial and office space in a walkable neighborhood. . As part of the deal, Pasco County will consider kicking  in a $33 million 30-year incentive, mostly a tax rebate to help with infrastructure costs.
  12. Pasco County commissioners introduced an ordinance Tuesday governing upkeep of empty property after residents complained about the condition of the Links Golf Club in Hudson, which closed in June 2019.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement