Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Pasco County Moves Forward with Serenova Habitat Destruction Despite Pending Lawsuit

 April, 7, 2020
Pasco County, FL -- Despite a pending lawsuit that could force the Board of County Commissioners to spend millions of taxpayer dollars to restore wildlife habitats and aquatic resources destroyed during construction of the Ridge Road Extension through the Serenova Preserve, Pasco County has defiantly rejected pleas to stop construction work on the extension within the preserve.  The rejection came after Sierra Club attorneys sent Pasco County a letter on March 24 asking them to cease construction in the environmentally sensitive preserve until the lawsuit was decided.
Sierra Club attorney Heidi Mehaffey of Robert N. Hartsell, PA, cautioned Pasco County that moving forward with further land disturbance or destructive site development, “without allowing this case to filter through the court system would be extremely short sighted and could have disastrous and financial consequences for Pasco County when Plaintiffs prevail on the merits.”
In a letter dated March 25, Pasco County attorneys’ cited Judge Charlene Honeywell’s recent decision to deny the Sierra Club’s motion for an injunction to halt construction during the pendency of the lawsuit. Frederick J. Aschauer, an attorney representing Pasco County, responded, “we acknowledge your position but intend to proceed with construction as allowed by our permits.”
The Sierra Club and longtime Serenova activist Dan Rametta are co-plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE). The suit was filed on February 6 to challenge the permit recently granted by the ACOE to Pasco County to construct the Ridge Road Extension.
“We have 20 years’ worth of evidence submitted to the judge in this case. We were not surprised that she was unable to sort through it all in the first weeks of the case and grant our motion for an injunction,” said Tim Martin, Conservation Chair for the Florida Chapter of the Sierra Club.  “That being said, the County is recklessly gambling with taxpayer money by moving forward with construction. They’ve already wasted over $13 million on this project, and if they lose this case, will end up wasting millions more to fix the mess they’ve created.”
“In these times of economic crisis, the last thing any government agency needs to do is waste money that could be spent saving lives,” added Dan Rametta.  “Counties are running out of money to fight the pandemic. How can Pasco County risk wasting $134 million to build this boondoggle, and then have to waste even more when they have to deconstruct damage to the Serenova Preserve, at a time when people’s lives are at stake?”
 Contact: Tim Martin, timothymartin@suncoastsierra.org, 727-251-9979
Photos and interviews available upon request.