Keep the "Nature" in Florida's Nature Coast

This past April thousands of activists wrote in to ask the the Army Corps of Engineers to deny a permit to dredge a nearly five-mile-long channel through the seagrass of Fillman Bayou that would destroy Florida Gulf Coast natural resources.

As a result of those efforts, the project was not approved.

But the plan is back with minor revisions, in the hope that we won't notice this "new" version is virtually the same proposal with the same terrible consequences.

Fillman Bayou represents one of the largest intact coastal ecosystems in Florida. It supports virtually undisturbed, productive seagrass beds that provide vital nursery and feeding habitat for species like Florida manatees and game fish.

Take a moment today to tell the Corps that this project is still too destructive, and for a greater impact please edit the letter to make it a unique, personal request.
Please deny the SunWest Harbourtowne-Pasco County application to dredge a nearly five-mile-long mega-channel through Fillman Bayou on Florida's Nature Coast. Despite whatever political pressure federal agencies reviewing the permit application might be experiencing, the task of the Army Corps of Engineers is clear: to protect public resources from unacceptably destructive proposals like this.

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While the proposed dredging is supposedly intended to benefit Pasco County residents with a planned county park, it appears to be mostly for the benefit of future residents of the massive SunWest Harbourtowne resort. This resort would create 2,500 residential units, a 250-room hotel and a 500-slip marina. Aside from a proposed boatlift, it would otherwise be landlocked. The pending permit for the boatlift and channel may be the only things standing in the way of these as-yet hypothetical resort residents and tourists spoiling the wild Bayou.

There has been a push to evaluate the mega-resort and county park as independent projects -- but the projects are not independent. A real estate listing for SunWest Harbourtowne brags that it will be "the first and largest Gulf channel to be permitted in over 50 years," and the SunWest Harbourtowne website acknowledges that "central to the resort community is deep-water boat access."

Even if we could believe that the dredge project was meant to benefit residents of Pasco County, and not the future residents of the mega-resort, there is no credible evidence that additional boat access to the Gulf of Mexico is needed. Boat registrations in Pasco County have dropped 18 percent since 2000, and the newly reopened Hernando Beach Channel is wider, deeper and shorter than this proposal. Denying this proposal would actually save time and fuel for boaters.

In addition to being unnecessary, the project does not provide sufficient mitigation for the estimated impacts to seagrass habitats. The mitigation that is offered comes with no meaningful assurances for monitoring, success or follow-through.

Seagrass beds provide nurseries for fish, shellfish and crustaceans, and without them Florida would experience a huge loss of wildlife and money. In addition to seagrass impacts, the bayou is fed by numerous freshwater springs that provide a freshwater resource and warm-water refuge to Florida's beloved manatees. The channel dredging and introduction of hundreds of boats a day will likely do severe harm to these gentle, endangered creatures.

The devastating impacts of this project and lack of demonstrated public need present a clear choice. This project is bad for Florida's Nature Coast and the residents of Pasco County, human and nonhuman alike. The people of Florida depend on our decision-makers and representatives to protect these resources. Please deny this permit.


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