Should important endangered species habitat be destroyed for better yachting?
The SunWest/Pasco mega-channel permit application for a 4.86 mile long, 85 foot wide dredge channel cut through the seagrass of Fillman’s Bayou on the Nature Coast is currently being considered by Army Corps of Engineers. Your help is needed to protect the largest intact coastal ecosystem in Florida. Left undisturbed, these productive seagrass beds provide vital nursery and feeding habitat for many threatened and economically important Gulf species, including economically important game fish and endangered manatees.
We believe the potential destructive impact to the manatee population should this deep channel dredging occur is inevitable, despite the conclusion by US Fish & Wildlife that no incidental harm or take of manatees is likely to occur. A recent citizen poll submitted to ACOE supports common knowledge from local residents and boaters that manatees are foraging, mating and birthing in Fillman’s Bayou.
Multiple studies have shown that where there are manatees, increased boat traffic results in strikes and takes. It is obvious that the channel will result in dramatically increased boat traffic that will, in turn, result in manatee strikes and takes. The Corps must request that USFWS mandate a study probing the reality of the projected impact of the SunWest Channel on manatees.
Unfortunately, the Federal agencies reviewing the permit application for the Pasco County-SunWest Harbortowne channel project have come under increasing insider political pressure to approve this unprecedented destruction. Commissioner Mariano has ramped up the political pressure on the Corps and NMFS via a series of conference calls with the offices of Senators Nelson and Rubio, and Congressmen Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor and Richard Nugent, R-Brooksville.
This insider pressure is trying to force Army Corps’ hand to approve this damaging project to widen, deepen and add 4 miles in length to create this mega-channel through the seagrass beds of the Nature Coast. We need your voice to represent the public’s interest and to ask the Corps and your elected representatives to act in the public interest and deny this permit now.
Cathy Harrelson is GRN's Florida Organizer