RESTORE MIDNIGHT PASS
Prior to 1984 Little Sarasota Bay was open to the Gulf of Mexico. The opening formed a “saltwater doorway” which separated the barrier islands of Casey Key and Siesta Key. It was known as Midnight Pass and it allowed fresh ocean water to flow freely into Little Sarasota Bay, flushing out debris and maintaining a healthy ecosystem with clean blue waters.
Unfortunately, Midnight Pass was closed off by human intervention in 1984, when the Army Corp of Engineers formed the Intracoastal Waterways, sealing off Little Sarasota Bay from the ocean Gulf. Since that time there has been a longstanding controversy over this small strip of land, particularly regarding the devastating effects it has had on the local ecosystem.
We believe it’s time to Open Midnight Pass, restoring the area to its original, natural state. The new hydrology would improve water circulation, reduce pollution, and increase the viable breeding areas for shrimp, clam, and oysters, all of which are now gone due to the stagnation of the waterways. Opening the Pass would revitalize the sea grasses, permitting new fish varieties and birds in the immediate vicinity, and restore the crystal blue of the Gulf waters.
It’s time to bring the natural beauty of Little Sarasota Bay back to life.
It’s time to Open Midnight Pass.
Before & After They Bulldozed Midnight Pass Closed
History of Midnight Pass
Midnight Pass was once a strong, stable, and naturally formed inlet dating back hundreds of years. In the 1840s, charts of the region show “Buccaneers Pass” separating Siesta and Casey Keys, later renamed Midnight Pass. In the early 1920s a hurricane ripped up the bayfront, reshaping the contour of the coastline, but the Pass endured.
One of the recurring themes in the Midnight Pass tale is the inlet’s movement. Those historical charts show the “wild, migrating” pass moving north or south across a three-mile stretch of coastline during the past 100 years.
The deepening of the IntraCoastal Waterway (ICW) in the early 1960’s, and especially the improper depositing of more than 200,000 cubic yards of sandy spoil material, had a major impact on the equilibrium of Midnight Pass. As the northern channel began to shoal in, Midnight Pass started to migrate North. The Southern channel handled the majority of the waterflow, trying to do the job of two channels, and eventually trees fell into navigable waters and were left there, further adding to shoaling problems.
In the mid 1970’s, a petition effort addressed the issue… but was ignored. In 1980, Sarasota County acquired lands in the area specifically to allow for the relocation and stabilization of Midnight Pass … but again, nothing was done.
The issue was controversial among locals as “experts” had an opinion on what should or should not have been done to the inlet. On Dec. 5, 1983, the pass was finally closed by two Siesta Key beachfront residents to protect their Gulf Front homes from destruction due to erosion when the inlet migrated northward. They promised to safely re-establish it farther to the south.
Syd Solomon and Pasco Carter Jr., both now deceased, financed several failed attempts to dredge open an inlet, then pleaded financial hardship to the Sarasota County Commission and asked for relief. Sympathetic commissioners let them off the hook, and nothing was done to reopen that major channel.
Since Midnight Pass was plugged, elected officials and those paid to protect our environment refused to take the necessary steps to save little Sarasota Bay. There have been multiple attempts, both within and outside the legal system, none of which have resulted in any change. A group of pass-opening proponents banded together in 1985, and the Midnight Pass Society began a shovel brigade that briefly did open the pass before government officials bulldozed the tiny waterway closed again.
Closing the Pass has so drastically altered water quality in the Bay that ALL of the salinity-dependent, filter-feeding clams have been killed. All the Oysters are also gone, millions have died. They couldn’t tolerate the lack of water circulation and the sediment-covered bottom of the bays.
In recent years the grasses have been impacted heavily—we’ve lost nearly 70% of the seagrass beds in Roberts and Little Sarasota Bays. While three seagrasses used to thrive in Little Sarasota Bay, only Cuban Shoal weed remains; the Turtle and Manatee grasses have entirely disappeared. Some areas have lost 90% of the coverage.
Midnight Pass played a key role in accommodating the migratory requirements of fish, shrimp, and mammals. The local fishing industry relocated from this area years ago due to the loss of easy access to/from the Gulf. Closing the Pass has harmed this industry and has made sport fishing and recreational boating far less desirable.
The Plan To reopen Midnight Pass
The goal of the Open Midnight Pass Coalition is to restore the water quality of Little Sarasota Bay by opening up the waterflow in and out of the Bay to the Sea. There are surely a number of ways this can be achieved that is harmonious and beneficial for both the local wildlife and the local residents.
First, we need studies. We want experts to research the best possible options for restoring the health of the bay by allowing ocean water to flow freeling into Little Sarasota Bay, as it once did for over a hundred of years prior to its bulldozing by Sarasota County.
Some have considered cutting a new channel from the shoreline. Other options have been put forward over the years. Perhaps the best option is to go back to basics; Reopen the old North Channel and dredge the South Channel, as mentioned in 2-3 reports from prior decades indicating that the waters converge naturally to create a stable pass. For almost 50 years the pass was stable due the diverging streams of tidal flow and this may be one of the most viable plans for returning the waterflow to nature and allowing the currents to flow freely.
We need an official survey of the ecological and geological factors in play before we can submit a formal proposal to Sarasota County and Federal Officials.
How Can You Get Involved?
We now have the Internet—and access to so much more data than proponents of opening Midnight Pass had in the past. We also enjoy an unprecedented ability to communicate our efforts and goals across Sarasota, Florida, and the world to accomplish what many say can’t be done.
Our position is—can we afford to wait another 30 years and see this get worse?
The Time is Now to Let it Flow.
Perhaps there is another plan out there and we, as Citizens of Sarasota County, are willing to listen to most anyone with core logic to solve this major environmental issue affecting so many. However, new studies are needed to achieve a workable solution that benefits all parties. With sufficient studies, engineering determinations, and other testing, we can finally fix this problem so that our children and grandchildren enjoy a beautiful, crystal blue Sarasota coastline for generations to come.
Help us fund this research and fuel our plan to Open Midnight Pass.
Your donations will help us do what folks have been unable to achieve for decades.
Are you ready?
Midnight Pass Society II Sponsors
Inquire at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Brian Jung
- Steve Murray
- Jim Hazelett
- Matt Delvca
- David Luria
- Siesta Key Rum
- Chip Alario
- Nick Melone
Christine Law, P.A.
Vacation Rentals Beachside Management
In The Media
The Big Debate: Midnight Pass
The Case for Restoration of Midnight Pass
Midnight Pass 30 yrs later
Midnight Pass Comprehensive Management Program Draft
Previously Proposed Plan
Open or Shut Case
As The Land Disappears...
St Petersburg Times