Petition filed against Long Bar mitigation bank permit

Site of the planned Aqua by the Bay subdivision.
Site of the planned Aqua by the Bay subdivision. Bradenton Herald file photo

A joint petition for a formal administrative hearing has been filed against the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in response to the agency’s decision to grant Long Bar Pointe LLLP a mitigation bank permit.

The Long Bar Pointe mitigation bank, if finally approved, would sit along Sarasota Bay southwest of El Conquistador Parkway in Manatee County. It would also be adjacent to Aqua One, the future residential development by Long Bar Pointe, which is a project of Medallion Home founded by Manatee County developer Carlos Beruff.

Petitioners Suncoast Waterkeeper Inc., Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage Inc. and former Manatee County Commissioner Joe McClash say that the application that used for the permit didn’t differ very much from the application FDEP initially denied and did not follow state regulations for a mitigation bank.

“It is beyond logic that FDEP would permit this,” McClash wrote in an email Wednesday. “The state regulators have looked the other way because of the toxic political environment.”

The purpose of a mitigation bank is to offset wetlands destroyed by development as required by the federal Clean Water Act, which says there needs to be a “no net loss” of wetlands. A mitigation bank is a piece of degraded wetlands purchased by a landowner, who then cleans it up and makes it more functional. The wetlands are surveyed to calculate how many credits of functional wetlands it is worth, and developers who destroy same-type wetlands within the bank’s region can offset the loss by buying the necessary credits, which can sell for between $100,000 and $200,000 each to the banker, instead of doing the more costly and time-consuming route of creating their own wetlands.

Long Bar’s mitigation bank is worth 18.01 credits, a small amount compared to other mitigation banks across the state. Also, it would be a first for Manatee County.

The petitioners argue that the wetlands Long Bar seeks to fix and protect aren’t as degraded as warranted by a mitigation bank designation, giving the healthy seagrass beds as an example. Also, they say that while the permit doesn’t give permission for mangrove trimming, it doesn’t prohibit it, either.

In its application submitted by Medallion Home president Peter Logan, Long Bar set aside 36 acres of mangrove swamps under 500 feet from the shoreline to potentially be trimmed to no shorter than 12 feet.

FDEP spokesperson Dee Ann Miller wrote in an email Wednesday that if the petition is “deemed sufficient,” it will be sent to the Division of Administrative Hearings where a judge will assign a hearing date.

Hannah Morse: 941-745-7055, @mannahhorse