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State, federal regulators, environmentalists clash over wetlands

What’s next for a state-approved, developer-run wetland mitigation bank on Sarasota Bay south of Cortez remains up in the air following a legal challenge that ended in August.

The Supreme Court of Florida denied review Aug. 27 of Joe McClash’s appeal, ending his case against the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for issuing a mitigation permit to Long Bar Pointe LLLP. McClash, a former Manatee County commissioner, took on the case without an attorney.

The permit allows the Carlos Beruff-Larry Lieberman partnership to operate a mitigation bank on 260 acres of mostly submerged land in Sarasota Bay adjacent to their Aqua by the Bay mixed-use development. The acreage is southeast of Cortez, where mangrove trimming has occurred based on previously issued DEP permits.

The 1st District Court of Appeal ruled in April that McClash lacked standing and the state’s highest court upheld that ruling.

“Now that those challenges are over, the permittee can begin operating the mitigation bank,” DEP spokeswoman Shannon Herbon wrote in a Sept. 24 email.