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Date of Issue: July 01, 2009

Pipeline project may aid renourishment

A local beach renourishment project may take place several years ahead of schedule under a new proposal for a natural gas pipeline.

The pipeline, which would run from the Gulf of Mexico into Tampa Bay and reach the mainland at the Port of Manatee, has generated some concern that white sand needed for beach renourishment would be made off limits. Officials on Longboat Key were the most vocal with concerns for the pipeline route, which already was revised once to avoid another area of beach-quality sand.

On June 23, during a Manatee County Board of Commissioners meeting, a possible solution to the conflict was announced: Instead of relocating the pipeline route to avoid submerged beach-quality sand, the sand would be removed before construction of the pipeline.

“It’s a win-win for all parties,” Manatee County natural resources director Charlie Hunsicker reported.

Hunsicker said representatives with the county, Longboat Key, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and Port Dolphin Energy LLC are working on the compromise strategy.

“We hope this will work,” he said.

If an agreement can be reached and the sand removed before Port Dolphin places its pipeline, renourishment for Longboat Key and Anna Maria Island might take place several years ahead of schedule — as early as 2011 — and with some cost-sharing on Port Dolphin’s part.

Hunsicker said, “We’ve found a solution to bring additional natural gas to the southwest coast of Florida through Port Manatee, at the same time protecting our white beach sand and the living resources in the Gulf of Mexico.”

Port Dolphin maintains the pipeline will help Florida utilities move away from a reliance on coal, will supply clean-burning natural gas to meet 15 percent of the state’s needs — or a million homes a day.

The company also maintains the project will generate $42 million in economic benefits during construction, including the creation of 82 jobs, $1.5 million in local and state revenue taxes.

Over the life of the project — about 20-30 years — Port Dolphin estimates the economic benefits will total more than $85 million, as well as spur competition that could reduce energy costs for consumers.

 

In the pipeline

The Port Dolphin Energy LLC proposal includes:

• A deepwater natural gas port about 28 miles off the coast of Anna Maria Island.

• Ships carrying gas from other areas will anchor next to buoys at the deepwater port in the Gulf of Mexico to deliver natural gas.

• Gas will be transported through a pipeline running from the deepwater port into Tampa Bay to Port Manatee.

• The pipeline will continue several miles inland, where it will connect with other natural gas pipelines.

The proposal is online at www.regulations.gov. The docket number is USCG-2007-28532.