Bad versus bad in many, many arenas
Call this a "notice to mariners" bit of advice for those transiting Longboat Pass: It's now apparently a no-wake zone.
Capt. Keith Barnett and wife Rebecca were heading out the inlet that separates Anna Maria Island from Longboat Key last weekend when they noticed a whole lot of waterborne law enforcement types issuing warnings for zippy boaters going through the pass and then under the bridge to the Gulf of Mexico. Knowing law enforcement, the warnings won't last long, with tickets soon to follow.
Go slow, OK? It's not like it'll add a whole lot of time to your trip to the Gulf or around the shallows of Jewfish Key, the scenery is pleasant, it's a fairly tricky bit of waterway anyway with lots of currents and continuously changing shoals, and there are manatees that frequent the area.
As has been said time and time again, there are few things that will make a day on the water more miserable than hitting a manatee.
Regional transportation planners have agreed that the concept of a "multi-modal" - Jeez, they love that term! - water-transportation system in the Manatee-Sarasota county area is feasible.
In non-transportation-ese, that means a water taxi.
Now, it would appear, there is a bit of a water-taxi war going on.
My buddy Bob Ardren at the Pelican Press newspaper in Sarasota wrote last week that the city has agreed to pursue grants to get the program started along the waterfront there despite efforts by Manatee County officials to do an identical plan here.
The background on this issue chugs along like this: Yeah, little and big boats carrying people to and from various points along the bays could be a cost-effective measure at a minimal charge per passenger as long as federal, state, regional or local funds are used to offset the costs.
The big benefit would come from keeping cars off the roads, putting visitors and locals on the water and taking congestion off the highways during high season. Wouldn't you take a boat to downtown Bradenton, or even Sarasota, in March rather than driving?
Hired consultants at Renaissance Planning told the Sarasota-Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization that a water taxi would work in the region. They offered a number of different "hubs," with a recommended pilot program for downtown Sarasota. MPO members decided to let the concept "grow" among their own jurisdictions, with Manatee County Commissioner Joe McClash making the motion to let everybody pretty much "go forth and do."
Highlights of the program have included hubs for boat travel at various places on the Manatee River like downtown Bradenton and Palmetto, a link at Bridge Street in Bradenton Beach, perhaps a long run from the Crosley Mansion near the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport to other locales, downtown Sarasota including Mote Marine Laboratory, and the Venice-Nokomis area to the south.
Last week, City of Sarasota officials made the first official move. As reported in the Pelican, "Manatee County's determination to snatch the rug out from under Sarasota's plans to set up the area's first water taxi program was challenged last week by the Sarasota City Commission, deciding to pursue grants that could reach $400,000 to do a final study of the feasibility of local water taxi service.
"City Redevelopment Specialist Karin Murphy told city commissioners that Sarasota is far ahead of Manatee County in its efforts to do a water taxi startup. She pointed out a local ordinance has been passed setting out the required permits, hours of operation and standards of operation."
My thought? Sarasota, go forth and do. First. And we'll all watch and learn.
I keep thinking about the Manatee Trolley that took forever to get up and running. First it was to go from the Anna Maria City Pier to Lido Key and St. Armands Circle. Then Longboat Key begged out. Then it stalled. Then, thank goodness, McClash stepped in and brought it to fruition on the Island.
Now, it's a model in the state. But not without a few hiccups, like noise problems and breakdown problems - all of which are now being corrected, but only after trial and error and a few years of the operation.
Anyone who's ever had a boat knows that problems with cars seem to be problems cubed with boats. Let's let Sarasota work out the bugs of a water taxi system - fares, size of boats, hours of operation, best time of operation and routes - before we dive into the fray.
Nuclear energy is now good?
Remember that old line about the difference between Shinola and …, well, the new news now appears to be nuclear power plants versus global warming. You'll never guess which is the eco-friendly one.
According to the New York Times, there is a growing trend amongst environmentalists in embracing nuclear power as a means to offset the greenhouse gas impacts caused by fossil-fuel emissions from more traditional power-generating sources.
"Their numbers still are small," according to the Times, "but they represent growing cracks in what had been a virtually solid wall of opposition to nuclear power among most mainstream environmental groups."
Hmm. Call it bad against more bad. As one of the founders of the Whole Earth Catalogue put it regarding nuclear power plants, "It's not that something new and important and good happened with nuclear, it's that something new and important and bad has happened with climate change."
In other words, the burning of oil and coal and other fuels to power our AC is worse than the threat of nuclear power plants, what some refer to as the plague of the electricity industry that reached its nadir in 1979 at Three Mile Island and was further hammered into the dirt in 1986 in Chrenobyl in the former Soviet Union.
FYI, the Times reported, it's been 32 years since any nuclear reactor has been built in the United States.
... and recycling is now complicated
All of Anna Maria Island - in fact, all of Manatee County - is now in a recycling mode. We all dutifully put our aluminum cans, newspapers, bottles and all the other stuff in special boxes and lug them out by the street for pickup.
And we feel pretty good about helping the environment, too, by reducing the volume of junk at the landfill and helping protect Mother Earth.
We're weenies in the recycle world compared to Japan, though.
Manatee County has something like 10 categories of recyclables, if you factor in tin cans, aluminum, paper - cardboard and newsprint - plastic in several forms, yard waste, dirt and all the rest. In Kamikatsu, a town on the smallest of the Japanese islands, there are 44 different categories of recyclables.
Officials there hope to totally eliminate anything going to its landfill by 2020.
Japan is small. It's population is huge. Small land-size and lots of people mean a serious problem with what to do with the trash. "Mount Trashmore" isn't really an option there, so most of their detritus is burned, but even the ash takes up more space than they'd like, so recycling is a must.
In Japan, 80 percent of the garbage is incinerated. In the United States, 80 percent of garbage goes into landfills.
Where we've got a couple of big bins that we dump our newspapers, bottles, cans and other stuff, Kamikatsu has a recycling center that has 44 containers. And it's socially improper to not recycle, with neighbor turning on neighbor if one doesn't meet the demands of the recycling police.
What is described as "first generation" nuclear reactors provide 20 percent of the electric power in the United States, according to the New York Times.