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Midnight Pass, Here We Go Again

Posted on April 19, 2023

The taxpayers of Sarasota County were lucky. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) did not issue permits to dredge Midnight Pass in 1991 and 2008. As a result, local taxpayers did not have to spend tens of millions of dollars to open and maintain the pass or spend tens of millions of dollars in legal costs because of erosion and property damage.

Thinking FDEP is likely to issue a dredging permit because of the “no regulatory” and the “we don’t care about the environment” mode the State of Florida appears to be in, proponents of opening Midnight Pass are renewing their efforts to convince the state and the Sarasota County Commission that taxpayers should waste money again in attempting to obtain a dredging permit that is not obtainable.

Dredging Midnight Pass would not be an environmental restoration project; it would be an environmental destruction project.

If the county chooses to proceed with dredging Midnight Pass, they are going to burden the taxpayers of Sarasota for at least the next 30 years. Not only will our children be paying for the costs of this but so will our grandchildren. This would be one of the biggest environmental and financial fiascos in the history of Sarasota County.

Midnight Pass has migrated significantly over its existence and there are no guarantees a reopened Midnight Pass would not migrate again. If migration did occur, it appears likely Midnight Pass would adversely impact the environment and private property, potentially costing taxpayers millions of dollars.

Chapter 62B-41.005(12), Florida Administrative Code specifically prohibits the creation of artificial new inlets or flushing outlets. Dredged openings must be hydraulically stable. A historic review of Midnight Pass clearly shows that it is not a hydraulically stable system and is likely to migrate and close if dredged open.

The likelihood that the FDEP will issue a permit to dredge Midnight Pass appears to be about 0%. Should the FDEP issue a permit to dredge Midnight Pass, there is a strong probability that a legal challenge would be successful based on an analysis of the facts previously submitted by the FDEP and other regulatory agencies.

Dredging of Midnight Pass remains inconsistent with the adopted and currently in effect Sarasota County comprehensive plan.  As such, dredging remains inconsistent with Florida’s Coastal Zone Management laws. FDEP cannot issue a permit for a Midnight Pass dredge project since approval must include a coastal zone consistency finding.

It just doesn’t make sense to run a dredge through some of the best marine and sea turtle nesting habitats found on the west coast of Florida. Opening Midnight Pass will not reduce water pollution, it will only move it from Little Sarasota Bay to the Gulf of Mexico and then onto the beaches.

Expect to see an increase in beach closings because of higher levels of pollution, algae blooms, red tide, and bacteria. It would be better to spend money on stopping the pollution from entering the water, than just trying to move it to a different location.

Casey Key and Siesta Key are barrier islands. Previous county commissions permitted buildings too close to the coastline, and we are all paying for it in terms of increased insurance rates, reduced public beach access, and repeated beach renourishment projects.

Glenn Compton is the Chairman of ManaSota 88, a non-profit organization that has spent over 30 years fighting to protect the environment of Manatee and Sarasota counties.


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