Pasco County is placing a future order to buy wetlands adjacent to the Connerton Preserve to offset wetlands that would be lost due to construction of the Ridge Road extension.
The Pasco County Commission approved a wetlands credit purchase agreement with Ecosystem Investment Partners Credit Co., for up to $4.4 million at its March 27 meeting in New Port Richey.
The item, part of the commission’s consent agenda, was approved with no discussion.
The total purchase price would be split between Pasco County and the Florida Turnpike Enterprise, which also needs wetlands credits for the project.
The county’s share would be about $3.2 million. The state road agency would reimburse for the remainder.
The agreement locks in a purchase price and ensures the credits will be available if, and when, the United States Army Corps of Engineers issues a permit.
The county has sought approval for the road project for nearly two decades. A decision from the Army Corps is anticipated in coming months.
The proposed project is for an 8-mile extension of Ridge Road which now dead-ends at Moon Lake Road.
The new road would link Moon Lake in west Pasco to U.S. 41 in Land O’ Lakes, across from an entrance into the master-planned community of Connerton.
The county puts a high priority on the Ridge Road extension as an evacuation route during hurricane evacuations.
But, environmental activists oppose the road extension, which would cut through a portion of the Serenova Preserve.
Community activist Dan Callaghan called the project the “zombie highway to nowhere” during public comment portion of the March 27 meeting.
Callaghan is a member of the Save Serenova Coalition. The Sierra Club is among 30 area groups included in the coalition.
Attorneys for the Sierra Club have submitted documentation to the Corps of Engineers opposing the Ridge Road extension.
Opponents maintain that the county isn’t being transparent on the final costs of the road work, which they contend could reach $150 million.
“Who will be the first to say enough to this boondoggle?” Callaghan said.
County officials have disputed the coalition’s data on the construction costs.
The wetlands credits would come from the Old Florida Mitigation Bank, located south of State Road 52 and east of U.S. 41, adjacent to the Connerton Preserve.
According to county documents, a construction start is scheduled for winter 2018, and a completion by winter 2021.
Construction would be in two phases, with the first phase from Moon Lake to the east side of Suncoast Parkway. The cost is estimated at $77 million, according to county documents.
Published April 4, 2018