Siesta Key group suing Army Corps over Big Pass dredge

The suit alleges the Army Corps of Engineers failed to conduct a vital study to examine the project’s potentially detrimental effects to Siesta Key

SARASOTA — A concerned citizens group fighting to stop a controversial dredging project to renourish seriously eroded Lido Beach is suing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for allegedly violating the law by failing to conduct a vital study to examine the project’s potentially detrimental effects to Siesta Key.

Save Our Siesta Sands 2 on Friday filed a suit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in an attempt to block the contentious project after the federal agency ignored a request 60 days ago from the group to conduct an Environmental Impact Statement to address economic and environmental concerns about the plan to dredge Big Pass to rebuild Lido Beach. The notice initiated a two-month period in which the Corps could have remedied the issue raised by the group or face litigation if it refused.

Before signing off on the project, the federal agency conducted a Final Environmental Assessment, which is not as comprehensive as an Environmental Impact Statement, according to the group’s St. Augustine-based land-use and environmental attorney, Jane West. The group cited concerns about the impact of taking sand from nearby sources, or “borrow areas,” that it says are needed to protect Siesta Key.

“The potential damage to Siesta Key, its resident and its businesses, as well as all the homes that could be impacted is substantial,” Save Our Siesta Sands 2 Chairman Peter van Roekens said Tuesday. “We believe that there are alternative sources (of sand) that can be used and we’re concerned that this may be a major problem for Siesta.”

The suit claims the project violates the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act, which in turn affects numerous areas of the Administrative Procedure Act, and is notably silent on how the project may exacerbate red tide conditions and the local economy, the 31-page complaint states.

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