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McClash calls Longboat Pass resolution ‘lie’

By Lisa Neff, Islander Reporter

The Manatee County Board of Commissioners last week approved a resolution asking the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to help dredge the federal channel in Longboat Pass. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff

Manatee County Commissioner Joe McClash Sept. 28 voted against seeking help to dredge Longboat Pass, claiming a county resolution conveys a lie to the federal government.

The resolution, which passed 5-1 with McClash’s “nay,” calls on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to help restore navigational safety in the federal channel in the pass that separates the southern end of Anna Maria Island and the northern tip of Longboat Key.

McClash said the request to restore navigational safety implies a risk that does not exist, according to an engineer that reported a new natural channel has formed, removing the need to dredge the federal channel.

“There’s not a navigational issue in that pass,” said McClash.

The commissioner, who for part of the discussion last week stepped away from the dais to speak from the audience podium, said, “You’re saying to the Corps you’re having a problem you don’t have.”

McClash removed the item from the meeting’s consent agenda for discussion, then later asked for the board to delay its vote until after more investigation.

The resolution, he said, “is false and a lie.”

But the board proceeded, with Commissioner Carol Whitmore calling the question after hearing from Charlie Hunsicker, the director of the county natural resources department.

Hunsicker said there is a disagreement between the engineer that McClash referred to and the West Coast Inland Navigation District that maintains the channel.

Substantial engineering research indicated the need to address “perceived navigational problems resulting from the silting in of the federal authorized channel template with approximately 170,000 cubic yards of high quality sand eroded from adjacent beaches,” Hunsicker said.

Both the WCIND and the town of Longboat Key supported the resolution, according to Hunsicker, who added that material from the dredge work would be used for beach renourishment on Longboat Key and Anna Maria Island.

A background memo from Hunsicker to the board stated, “Numerous adjustments to the channel marker system have been made by the U.S. Coast Guard, but users of the pass are experiencing uncertainty and danger, and potential property damage when navigating the pass.”

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