We now have the final Atkins Peer Review which has been reformatted but contains basically the same message as in the draft report; namely that there are major concerns about the level of science and modeling that the Army Corps has used in reaching their conclusions. Stating that there will be no negative impacts on Siesta Key based on the Army Corps modeling flies in the face of both actual experience in other inlets and previous studies.
The Atkins report cites concerns about the Army Corps modeling technology, the lack of specifics to back up the conclusions reached and the relevancy of much of the data used due to its age. This came as no surprise to us as our expert Dr. Robert Young had already pointed out many issues with the Army Corps models. Earlier reviews of proposals to dredge Big Pass also expressed concerns on the potential impacts to Siesta Key as well as on navigation. Examples are Peer reviews of the Inlet Management Plan (read bottom of pg. 8 & pg.9) and the Peer review by Aubrey and Dolan .
An additional issue with the Army Corps approach is that it provides a false alternative; it is an all or nothing approach. Why is it that Lido Key cannot be renourished the same way it has been in the past with smaller quantities of sand without mining the Siesta Key shoal and endangering Siesta Key? If sand is brought from offshore it is added to the system. However, if sand is moved north against the normal flow, some will be lost offshore.
One thing is clear; removal of even a small section of Big Pass shoal without a comprehensive look at all of the factors that impact navigation and Siesta Key makes no sense. The risks of proceeding without this information are simply too great as once any dredging has occurred the damage cannot be undone and the financial stakes are too high.
What is next? The DEP has accepted many of the Army Corps answers to their first request for additional information. DEP has issued a second request for the information that they determined was still missing according to their arcane rules. It appears that they are on a path to grant the permits as their rules constrain what they can ask.
We hope that the County will utilize the information in the Atkins report to influence the City to rethink their plans. As the City is the sponsor for the dredge, they will be liable for any damage that occurs if they proceed but that is small consolation indeed.
Save our Siesta Sand is readying our case. We need your help by spreading the word, signing our petition and donating. And if you have done these three things, we thank you and ask you to do them again as we are just halfway to our goal!