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Siesta Key group planning to sue the feds over Lido Beach renourishment project

SIESTA KEY — A citizens group fiercely opposed to a dredging project to renourish critically eroded Lido Beach has notified the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers of its intent to sue the federal agency for allegedly breaking the law by failing to conduct a key study to examine the project’s potentially devastating effects to Siesta Key.

Save Our Siesta Sands 2 on Friday formally provided the federal agency a required 60-day notice of its intent to sue after the Corps ignored a request from the group to conduct an Environmental Impact Statement to address economic and environmental concerns about the plan to dredge Big Pass and rebuild Lido Beach. The notice initiates a two-month period in which the Corps can remedy the issue raised by the group or face litigation if it refuses.

Before signing off on the project, the federal agency conducted a Final Environmental Assessment, which is not as comprehensive as an Environmental Impact Statement, according to the group’s St. Augustine-based land-use and environmental attorney Jane West. The group cited concerns about the impact of taking sand from nearby sources, or “borrow areas,” that it says are needed to protect Siesta Key.

“The Environmental Assessment failed to analyze the economic impacts of the dredging and also wholly failed to even consider red tide issues,” West said in an email to the Herald-Tribune. If the Corps “conducts an EIS that more comprehensively considers other borrow areas as alternatives, and opts for a borrow area that doesn’t impact Big Pass Shoal, then yes, Save Our Siesta Sands 2 would refrain from pursuing litigation.”