Approximately 30 people braved the rain at Plaza de Luna on Saturday, Sept. 21 to participate in 350.org’s “Draw the Line on Keystone XL” event. Saturday was a National Day of Action led locally by 350 Pensacola, a chapter of 350.org. The now-international environmental group organized last February’s “Forward on Climate” rally in Washington, D.C., the largest rally on climate change to date.
Local citizens gathered to demonstrate solidarity against permitting of the Keystone XL Pipeline, which as proposed would extend from Alberta, Canada through the American Midwest to Houston, and would transport Canadian tar sands crude to refineries along the Gulf of Mexico.
Last week marked the fifth anniversary of the U.S. Department of State receiving the Keystone XL project’s application for a cross-border permit. The Keystone XL project has met with opposition from environmentalists, residents of refinery towns, and Native American groups and rural landowners whose property the pipeline would cross.
Pensacola was one of over 200 locations in the U.S. and Canada that held gatherings as part of the “Draw the Line” event. 350 Pensacola leader Elaine Sargent announced that the group will join with Earth Ethics to hold a meeting on October 19 at the West Florida Public Library as part of the second annual Global Frackdown Day, an international initiative working to ban fracking and promote renewable energy.
World of Beer Brouhaha
During a special meeting of the Downtown Improvement Board on Tuesday, Sept. 17, the board voted to approve World of Beer’s request to expand the sidewalk just outside of Blend Lounge. The problem? The sidewalk expansion will eliminate four parking spaces on the south side of Intendencia Street, which runs between World of Beer (WOB) and the Saenger Theatre.
The proposed sidewalk expansion would accommodate outdoor seating at Blend Lounge and is the primary source of controversy for citizens and neighboring business owners.
Other Palafox business owners expressed concern over the loss of the four parking spaces on the south side of Intendencia Street for delivery/loading and customer parking purposes. Poor drainage and ADA compliance issues are among the challenges in that location that both WOB and the city would like to improve.
The sidewalk extension is just one part of an extensive expansion WOB has planned. In March, the popular beer establishment purchased the adjoining parking lot to the south and the building housing the Grand Reserve Cigar & Smoke Shop and the Christian Science Reading Room, which has already relocated.
Prior to the Special Meeting, the DIB’s Parking & Traffic Committee Meeting met, heard from the public and WOB owners, but made no recommendation to the board; however, after more public comment and discussion, the board approved the motion to expand the sidewalk and sent WOB on their way to the City Planning Board and City Council, which will make the final decision on WOB’s proposal.
On Sept. 19, City Councilwoman Jewel Cannada-Wynn welcomed citizens to a workshop on three proposed projects that would utilize fine monies acquired from BP as part of the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) process resulting from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.
Approximately 100 citizens gathered at the Sanders Beach-Corinne Jones Community Center to learn more about the projects which were announced in May 2013. There are no final designs for any of the projects, rather, the experts presented on the concepts of the two living shoreline projects and saltwater fish hatchery proposed for Cannada-Wynn’s District 7.
Representatives from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration presented on the proposed living shorelines projects while Gil McRae of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission had the task of answering questions about the more controversial hatchery project, which is planned for the 5.5 acre parcel of property located immediately west of the Community Maritime Park.
Local environmentalists have expressed concerns about the proposed hatchery, which would be the state’s first “Enhancement Facility” for raising stock fish for recreational angling. A similar FWC facility in Manatee County has been in operation as a research facility for 20 years, but the BP money, intended for projects that address “lost human use” resulting from the spill, would allow FWC to apply the hatchery research to an industry—recreational fishing—that is a significant source of revenue for Gulf states. Currently, the FWC plans to stock locations throughout the Gulf with fish that would be raised in the Pensacola hatchery.
There will be opportunity for further public comment once the living shorelines and hatchery projects enter the formal NRDA review process, expected to begin this fall.