Manatee County commissioners said Thursday they will support a compromise route for the proposed Port Dolphin pipeline, but only with conditions.
Among them: That the county be allowed to remove high-quality beach sand in the natural gas pipeline's proposed path before it is built.
That's the position the county plans to submit next week to the U.S. Coast Guard, which is taking public comment on a draft environmental study of Port Dolphin Energy LLC's $1 billion proposal.
The company wants to put a platform 28 miles from shore, where ships would unload liquefied natural gas. The gas then would be shipped through the pipeline, which would come ashore at Port Manatee and connect with existing land pipelines for distribution.
County and Longboat Key officials initially objected to the pipeline's original proposed route because it would cross prime sources of sand for beach renourishment . The company later agreed to move the pipeline farther north but not far enough in the eyes of town officials, who continue to explore possible legal action.
"We are pleased that there is a potential resolution for us to move sand out of the way in advance," said Bruce St. Denis, Longboat Key's town manager.
Port Dolphin officials also have said they are willing to help the county get the sand by paying the permitting costs, estimated at $400,000 to $500,000, as well as sharing in the dredging costs, said Charlie Hunsicker, the county's natural resources director. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection also has indicated a willingness to reduce the permitting process from two or three years to as little as one year, he said.
"Our application would literally be put on top of the pile," possibly resulting in the sand being available in 2011 instead of as late as 2014, Hunsicker told commissioners.
But, as County Administrator Ed Hunzeker noted, "We don't have anything in writing yet."
The deadline to submit comments on the study is Sept. 11, or three weeks later than originally planned. That's because the Coast Guard said it overestimated how much beach-quality sand was available along the pipeline's proposed route by a factor of nine, which it blamed on an unspecified "mathematical unit conversion error."
To comment, go to www.regulations.gov, click on "Submit a Comment" and enter "Port Dolphin" or "2007-28532" as the keyword. A final decision is expected by Oct. 26.
Copyright (c) 2009, The Bradenton Herald, Fla. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.