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Blind Pass to open as early as June 15

By Staff | Apr 15, 2009

The opening of Blind Pass – the link between Sanibel and Captiva – is right on schedule, and according to project manager Robert Neal of the Lee County Department of Natural Resources, the opening might be completed as early as June 15.

Residents and visitors have noticed the growing amounts of sand and water within the containment cell situated on the Gulf side of Blind Pass bridge, and Neal said that the next step is to get “all of that unsuitable beach material” out of the way.

At the peak of the hauling process, workers will utilize up to eight trucks and move the unsuitable beach material to a disposal site one mile up Sanibel-Captiva Road. They will work eight hours a day until the estimated 500 loads have been removed from the site.

“We’re planning on them taking a month to finish this. That’s our estimate. If they can do it faster than that, then that would be great,” Neal said, adding that as yet, he thinks it will take anywhere from three weeks to a month to complete the trucking phase of the project.

Since the beginning of the project, Neal has been warning residents close to the site of the possibility of the material in the containment cell emitting a foul odor due to the various organisms that might be scooped up during the dredging process.

Fortunately, this issue hasn’t proved problematic and the expected odor, to date, has not been noticeable.

“We get you to plan for the worst and hope for the best,” said Neal. “The way the material blended and the fact that the mud is still underwater right now, it’s really not being exposed as much as it could have been [and] it’s not getting that aeration that we wanted everyone to plan for.”

The clay-like material will be used as fill for a Sanibel wastewater treatment plant.

“It’s only a mile up the road, so it will be a quick trip distance with minimal impacts on the roadway,” Neal said, noting that workers will also haul the material at night to minimize the traffic impacts during the day.

Neal also mentioned that when trucking begins, three of the walls of the containment cell will be removed, while the wall closest to the Gulf will stay put. Tearing out the final wall will be the official opening of Blind Pass.

“They’re going to remove the three inside edges as quickly as they can and that’s going to be dependent upon when they get the sediment out,” he added.

Over the next few weeks, while workers haul the material into Sanibel, the dredge currently in Roosevelt Channel will continue working underneath the bridge.

After the material is out of the way, dredging will continue on both sides of the remaining sheet pile.

“They are planning on working from 4 a.m. to 12 midnight, 20 hours a day when they get good weather,” Neal said.

As for what date that may occur, Neal is cautiously optimistic that it may be sooner than later.

“We’re thinking July 8. They’re definitely ahead of schedule for that and I think they’re looking around June 15 now, but they’re obviously going to have some delays when they’re not able to really dredge at full capacity, dealing with the sediment. While they’re hauling the sediment away, that’s going to push that date closer to July 8.,” Neal said, noting that cold fronts and erratic wind patterns will also play a role in how quickly workers can complete their tasks.

“We really share the excitement of the public of opening this beautiful waterway,” said Kathleen Rooker, administrator of the Captiva Erosion Prevention District.

If you have questions concerning the opening of Blind Pass or Captiva’s beaches, contact the CEPD at 472-2472.