Story Tools

Date of Issue: July 22, 2009

Public hearing set for pipeline project

Federal officials will collect public comments on a proposed deepwater port and natural gas pipeline July 28 in Palmetto.

The hearing on the Port Dolphin Energy LLC plan will take place from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Manatee Convention Center, 1 Haben Blvd., Palmetto. An informational review of the project is scheduled to take place from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The Port Dolphin Energy LLC proposal calls for a deepwater natural gas port about 28 miles off the coast of Anna Maria Island. Ships carrying liquefied natural gas from other areas will anchor next to buoys at the deepwater port in the Gulf of Mexico, where the LNG will be converted into gas and fed into 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 gas pipelines.

Port Dolphin, a subsidiary of an Oslo, Norway, company, proposed the pipeline in an application to the federal government in March 2007. The application has since been under review by a series of federal agencies, in cooperation with Florida departments, but the principal reviewer is the U.S. Coast Guard.

On July 13, the Maritime Administration and the Coast Guard released a final environmental impact statement on the project and announced a 45-day comment period.

The public hearing offers an opportunity to comment, but interested parties can also review the EIS at www.regulations.gov, docket number USGG-2007-28532, and post comments to the Web site.

A printed copy of the EIS also can be found at the Island Branch Library, 5701 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach.

The hefty EIS details Port Dolphin’s proposal, reviews the permitting and approval process, outlines the nation’s energy needs and explores whether the project impacts air quality, cultural and historic resources, fish habitat, threatened or endangered species, navigation and transportation and land use.

The EIS states:

• Regarding water quality, a combination of long- and short-term, minor, adverse impacts would be expected in both marine and coastal waters.

The document said operations would increase water temperature and turbidity near Port Manatee. Additionally, the EIS said “spills of hazardous substances, such as hydrocarbons (e.g. petroleum, oils and lubricants) might result in short-term, minor, adverse impacts on water quality.”

• Regarding biological resources, “minor to moderate, short-term, adverse impacts and minor, long-term, adverse impacts” would occur.

Specifically, the EIS states that noise associated with construction would have short-term, possibly major, impacts on marine mammals and sea turtles.

The EIS also noted concerns about the project’s impact on plankton, as well as Spanish sardines and gag grouper.

• Regarding cultural resources, the EIS states, “The proposed port site and pipeline route avoids known cultural resources.”

• “Subsea sediments are the primary geological resource that would be affected by the project,” according to the study.

• Minor, long-term impacts on commercial fishing, recreational fishing and boating would occur, according to the EIS. However, the document also states, related to marine areas and land use, “No direct or indirect, long-term, adverse impacts would be expected from pipeline operations offshore or onshore.”

• Regarding recreation and aesthetics, the EIS cites short- and long-term minor, adverse impacts. “Offshore construction of the port would be visible to recreational boaters, residents and visitors,” the document states.

• “Emissions from port operations … would have a long-term, direct, minor adverse impact on air quality during the life of the project,” the report states.

• “Minor to moderate, short-term, adverse impacts on transportation resources would be expected from construction of the proposed port and pipeline,” the EIS states. There might be 1,800 trips to and from shore during the 11-month construction period. During operations, there might be two trips a day from shore to port.