Ahead: bridges over - or under - troubled water
Bridge brouhaha has again been brought forth to Anna Maria Island, specifically the Anna Maria Island Bridge linking Holmes Beach to Perico Island.
Florida Department of Transportation officials, after admitting a bit of an “oopsie” in not letting anyone know that the bridge would be closed to vehicular traffic this year in high season, recanted its earlier plans and will now close the bridge for some of the repairs in late September.
What’s interesting is the sea change that has taken place among Islanders. Ten-plus years ago, DOT proposed replacing both the Cortez Bridge and the Anna Maria Island Bridge with high, fixed-span structures.
Islanders and Cortezians were revolted at the plan, and revolted. The opponents of the Cortez Bridge plan, which included the state taking more than 100 properties for the approaches, quickly won their battle, and the big-bridge plan there was dropped. It took longer for Anna Maria Island Bridge foes, but that plan, too, was defeated.
Now, there is a “surge” toward a new bridge for the Island. Size, shape and design are to be determined — we’re looking at 10 years or so before the bridge construction could begin, and even if there is any funding for such a span in a cash-strapped state.
But former big-bridge foes are now considering something new.
And so enters William C. Follmer with his option: a tunnel.
Writing in one of those newspapers that prints and distributes every day, retired engineer Follmer hits the highlights of building a tunnel in lieu of a bridge.
First up, tunnels don’t necessarily flood.
There aren’t high-wind issues for vehicles traversing the underwater structure.
Environmental impacts are mitigated easily once the tunnel is built as seagrasses are planted (or replanted as the case may be) atop the big tube. And there are no shading problems for the new plantings.
There is not a smidgen of problem with a high-masted boat getting through the space over the tunnel.
After all, it works for large ships in Chesapeake Bay.
DOT officials have always considered tunnels in their design plans for any bridge option. And the tunnel option is always pooh-poohed as being too costly.
Well, the numbers may be a bit off, but our neighbors to the south were forced into a 65-foot-high center clearance, fixed-span bridge. After all the lawsuits and delays, the bridge was eventually built at the Ringling Causeway across Sarasota Bay for something like $78 million.
Tunnel cost? Estimated at $83 million.
As Follmer wrote, “Why is a tunnel not one of the alternatives under study?”
And not to ignore the past, former Islander David Reid, now of Hollywood, Calif., wrote several “opinions” about the virtues of a tunnel “option” on Manatee Avenue. But he must have been ahead of his time.
The wasted money for the studies in 1992-93 and the projected, ever-increasing cost for the bridge over the past 15 years could have built the tunnel “back then.”
So tunnel opponents state that there could be flooding during storms. They point to the falling pieces in the “Big Dig” in Boston, a gazillion dollar project that had parts of the ceiling dropping.
And the biggie complaint is the loss of joy when driving across a bridge to beautiful Anna Maria Island and the lacking ambiance of the vista. Birds. Dolphins. Fish.
Well, here’s a thought for ambiance lovers.
Most of the big bridges that are built today have high concrete rails on the sides to keep people from careening off the structure. The railings are solid. View? What view, unless you’re driving a Monster Truck.
In another gulp from the past comes this: Florida’s springs are less than spry.
From the Sarasota Herald-Tribune comes the note that the Sunshine State has more than 700 springs, which dump an estimated 64 million gallons of water per day into the Gulf of Mexico. Most of the springs start their underwater flow in Georgia or even the Carolinas — and most surface in Florida’s Big Bend area. A few end up well offshore. It’s a wonderful ecosystem that’s virtually impossible to fully comprehend since it’s so far underground.
State lawmakers appear to be trying to gum the springs to death this legislative session. There’s a proposal to create a pilot program to create special protections for a couple of springs in Marion County to our north, with a goal of protection of other springs in the state.
OK, consider this concept. Some 30-plus years ago, a state senator proposed a plan to siphon off some of that 64 million gallons of water per day and pipe it to the drier parts of Florida. He was blasted for the ridiculousness of the proposal and the idea dried up.
A few years later, a former Florida governor offered a thought to tap fresh water from the offshore upwellings. Scientists said it was feasible. The rest of the world thought he was nuts. That plan also dried up.
Sorry to quote a cliché, but can’t we start to think outside the box?
And remember the oft-quoted statement regarding water, that the lack of water is the single greatest limiting factor to growth in this water-parched state we call Florida. Surrounded by water, but none fit to drink.
Gulf to aquarium
Here’s some goofiness that aquaria aficionados may enjoy.
Kris Hundley of the St. Petersburg Times newspaper reported last week on how the Florida Aquarium in Tampa replenishes the water for its tanks. It’s more complicated than you might imagine.
Every other month, barges pump 300,000 gallons of water into their bilges for ballast, then pump the water to an aquarium holding tank. The water is filtered for a few days, then pumped into the aquarium.
But there is a happy side to all this effort. Mosaic Fertilizer of Mulberry owns the barges and has donated its services to the aquarium for the next few years, which reduces the cost per trip to $10,000, or $60,000 per year. To use city water and add salt, the cost would run something like $400,000.
Deplete the Gulf? Not likely. Take potable water and add salt to it? Silly.
To borrow a favorite phrase of Miami Herald columnist Dave Barry, I’m not making this up.
Cape Coral, Fla., residents started complaining about loud thumps in their Lee County canal community a while back. Officials were alerted, and studies were ordered to determine the cause.
The utility system was blamed for the noise.
But enter the hero of the day, a University of South Florida marine science student, who refuted that, saying, “Uh, the noise is mating calls of black drum.”
It took a hard sell to convince the residents, but eventually science won out in the community, studies were stopped and citizens came to terms with the fish tremors, which reverberated from the water through their seawalls and into their homes.
Similar circumstances and results occurred at Emerald Harbor on Longboat Key about 20 years ago.
So here we go again with the hurricane forecasts.
Phil Klotzbach and Dr. William Gray, both of Colorado State University, have offered their April hurricane predictions for the Atlantic Ocean basin storm season of 2008.
The team predicts 15 named storms, eight of which will become hurricanes and four becoming intense storms with winds in excess of 111 mph.
It’s another “above-average” season prediction for the period which starts June 1 and runs through Nov. 30.
“Average” storm seasons, by the way, are 10 named storms, six hurricanes and two of those intense.