1. Letters to the Editor

Corps of Engineers needs to issue permit for the Ridge Road extension

Re: Ridge Road Extension

Corps needs to issue this permit

The Audubon Society website says, "Letters and emails to the (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) are crucial, and if enough are received, sources tell us we have a real chance to stop this devastating and unnecessary project." According to this statement, the permit is based on the number of letters and emails, versus actual findings of fact. On the contrary, the corps permit should be based on the establishment of need for the project, along with proper and equal mitigation.

It appears that this corps permit, whether approved or denied, will be contested in court, which is the reason that it should be based on substantiated facts rather than the sheer number of opinions. The need for this project has been proven through rigorous computer modeling and that the environmental mitigation is equal, if not extremely generous.

Transportation engineers have repeatedly proven the need for this road. The widening of both State Roads 52 and 54 will still not provide sufficient capacity to relieve the need for this road extension. No professional engineer has refuted these findings.

The road extension was fully acknowledged during the approval of the Suncoast Parkway mitigation plan, which established the 6,000-acre Serenova tract as a preserve. It also established the mechanism for the construction of the Ridge Road Extension through this mitigation preserve. All of the permits, contracts, and agreements were set up for the right-of-way to be provided after the extension was designed, but before the road is to be constructed. The Florida Department of Transportation and Pasco County have relied on these permits and agreements and have subsequently spent millions of dollars toward this extension. The interchange bridges for this extension connection were constructed as part of the Suncoast Parkway. A corps permit for this extension is not a broken promise, but rather just the opposite — it follows along with everything officially approved to date.

At the time of the Suncoast Parkway mitigation plan approval, the issue was not whether to allow this extension in the tract, but rather how the road would snake through it to best avoid yet-to-be identified environmentally sensitive areas. That was left for the permitting process to conclude. If the corps did not want this road in the preserve, then it should not have approved the parkway mitigation plan.

Construction drawings for the extension have been modified to incorporate suggestions from the corps and other governmental agencies. As a result, the wetland destruction has been reduced to 59 acres. All other agencies have issued the needed permits for the extension hence, the corps permit is the only one remaining to be issued. From these governmental suggestions, there will be nine extra large wildlife crossing structures that will safely funnel wildlife across the road right-of-way. Through the Serenova Preserve, this road extension will be fenced, like the Suncoast Parkway, so wildlife will not be in danger of vehicles. This nine bridge wildlife mitigation is much more than what has been required of most projects, including the Suncoast Parkway.

In exchange for destroying 59 acres of wetlands, 220 acres of wetlands plus up to 881 acres (total of 1101 acres) will be preserved. This is a ratio greater than 18 to 1. Most courts should find this mitigation of equal or better environmental benefit.

The need for the extension has been proven and the proposed mitigation is completely defensible which meets the criteria for the issuance of a corps permit. The same cannot be said of a denial. Based on these facts, it would be wise for the corps to issue this permit.

Douglas R. Uden, New Port Richey

Politicians don't live in our world

Has anyone considered or thought about why politicians can not relate to the average, working person?

I have been an employed business owner in this state for 30 years. It is a very difficult job right now to stay in business with the economy the way it is. My pay, every week, is affected by the economy, weather, time of year, etc. How about we pay our politicians in Tallahassee and Washington based on the same criteria?

Can you imagine when one of these people goes to buy gas for his or her car and can only put in $10 worth because their weekly pay is 25 percent lower than last week? Do you think they will watch how government is spending its money and taxing people because it took in 25 percent less money?

No. They don't have this problem. They get regular pay, health insurance, retirement benefits and maybe even reimbursement for that gasoline. There is something wrong with this picture.

Bob Clark, Port Richey