Fla. County Vows To Fight Pipeline Plan
by Nicholas Azzara The Bradenton Herald, Fla.
May 21, 2008
Facing the prospect of losing valuable sand reserves for restocking local beaches, Manatee leaders have decided to fight a proposed natural gas pipeline off Anna Maria Island.
Manatee County stands to lose $40 million to $50 million worth of underwater sand if a $1 billion pipeline is built 28 miles west of Anna Maria, Conservation Lands Director Charlie Hunsicker told county commissioners Tuesday.
Port Dolphin wants to build a 36-inch gas transmission line that would make landfall at Port Manatee property and continue about four miles inland, where it would link with Gulfstream Natural Gas System's pipeline.
That kind of impact would mean almost certain doom for plans to renourish local beaches, which could in turn mean a severe blow to a local economy that depends heavily on pristine sands to attract tourists. A county in the middle of slashing budgets would be hard-pressed to find the type of money to carry out extensive sand restocking projects later this year and next.
Those concerns, along with the possible environmental impact, were enough for county commissioners to come out in full force against the plan. They said they will ask state and federal officials to do the same.
"This proposal is terrible," said Commissioner Amy Stein. "There's so much wrong with this. If you don't sit down with officials and staff to talk about what will work, you come up with a crazy proposal that's just going to rankle everyone and we need to oppose it to the hilt."
County environmental experts also voiced strong concern about the offshore line. Karen Collins-Fleming, director of Manatee's environmental lands department, said early environmental studies of the impacts of an underwater line are speculative and repercussions could be far-ranging on county utilities, the Gulfstream pipeline and on Port Manatee, another local economic linchpin.
"You can't really say what will happen and quantify how many whales, how many dolphins will be impacted," she said. "The potential is there for a lot of problems. The pipe-laying operation is intrusive and will have a lot of impacts on the bay bottom."
Early Tuesday morning the county received a letter from Port Dolphin stating it recognizes the county's concerns, and it vowed to discuss alternatives with the county.
Gulfstream officials say an offshore connection would be safer and would cause less ecological damage to Manatee's fragile coastline. The county agrees and hopes to convince Port Dolphin authorities to consider that alternative.
"I want to state categorically that our recommendations are to not oppose the import of additional natural gas into central Florida," Hunsicker said. "Our position fundamentally is to ask the company to look at the alternatives to this undersea alignment to simply avoid the offshore sand resource. It's not a difficult task."
The Gulfstream pipeline comes from gas fields in Louisiana, Hunsicker said. Port Dolphin's plan would bring a liquefied natural gas tanker to an offshore mooring buoy where it would transfer the product into a pipeline to be brought ashore.
Commissioners decided to send letters to officials in Washington, D.C., and Tallahassee asking for them to join the county in opposing the proposed line. And they want to discuss an alternative route with Port Dolphin sometime in the coming weeks.
"We're just asking that they do it in the safest, most financially feasible way, with the least impact to our community," said Commission Chairwoman Jane von Hahmann.
Conservation Lands Director Charlie Hunsicker said construction of a pipeline west of Anna Maria would cost Manatee County up to $50 million in underwater sand.
Copyright (c) 2008, The Bradenton Herald, Fla. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
Port Dolphin Project
Port Dolphin Energy LLC (subsidiary of Hoegh LNG AS)
offshore Tampa Bay, FL United States