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Fort Hamer Bridge Navigates Wetland Bank


BRADENTON -- At Thursday's Land Use meeting, commissioners approved further expense to purchase wetland credits from the Tampa Bay Mitigation Bank costing $225,000; the price for impacting wetlands on the controversial Fort Hamer Rd. Bridge project.    

It was item #9 on the Land Use Agenda, and Manatee Commissioner Robin DiSabatino wanted it pulled from the consent agenda for discussion. 

DiSabatino was puzzled as to why such a contentious issue was on the consent agenda, which commissioners vote on without any of the items being read or discussed. Many residents were under the impression that the proposed bridge, crossing the Manatee River, wasn't being built because of all the public opposition. 

But the vote Thursday was whether to purchase "wetland credits" that would mitigate the impacts to wetlands in the path of the road leading to the proposed bridge.

In the original plans, the county set aside 4.5 acres of upland property close to the bridge site to be the mitigating factor, with the need to complete a requirement to get a permit from both the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD), and the Army Corp of Engineers (ACOE). 

Surprising to many was the additional cost involved in the decision to satisfy the SWFWMD and ACOE permitting by purchasing credits rather then using the original land swap deal. But staff explained that the county owns the 4.5 acres and can now use it as they wish. 

Staff summed the comparative price for the 4.5 acres, added the annual monitoring expense and construction costs, in explaining how the $225,000 paid to the Tampa Bay Mitigation Bank was by far the best deal. That is of course if one supports the building of the bridge, and two residents who spoke-out did not.

Barbara Hines said it was "appalling" that the issue was on the consent agenda. Hines said, "Mitigation banks don't work and never have worked," adding, "If you destroy the environment, it remains destroyed."  Hines told the commission that they should keep contested issues out of the consent agenda and give the public the information and time to know what is going on.

Mary Shepard said she has attended all of the "Ft Hamer" meetings and was under the impression that the people didn't want it and thought it was voted down. 

"In the 70s someone put a little bitty line where people fish, it was a straight shot," said Shepard. "Now it is worse than it ever was. The (true) value of the marsh is in the renewal of fish."

The commission seemed to pay little attention to both of the women's statements, and proceeded to unanimously approve the purchase of credits so the project could move forward.


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