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City should share dredging costs

By Staff | Apr 15, 2009

Dear Mr. Denham and Sanibel City Council,

Mr. Ireland has encouraged those of us who are waterfront homeowners and/or boatmen to write to express our concerns re: the Sanibel Inlet. If this inlet were to become blocked with sand, Sanibel would be seriously harmed:

1. The approximately 300 houses, plus numerous condominiums, along the canals in the island’s east end would decline in value. Their canals would no longer be freshened by a tidal flow of water. These homeowners would no longer have boating access to the Bay. Instead, their homes would back onto ditches of stagnant water. The value of these homes would be seriously reduced. As a guesstimate, if we assume an average current value of $1,500,000 per home falling to $1,000,000, that is a Sanibel property loss of $500,000 x 300 homes = $150 million. (Some lesser destruction of property values would also probably extend to adjacent, non-waterfront east end homes.) All this would cost the city a loss in tax base far in excess of the dredging cost to maintain property values.

2. The city would lose boat traffic that brings tourists.

3. Those who dock boats in the canals behind their waterfront homes would lose their access to the Bay and Gulf.

4. The extensive stagnant water would be environmentally unattractive.

5. If excessive and unfair costs were to make Sanibel Island Marina decide to cease operation, the tax loss to the city would be significant.

Since the late ’60s, Mr. Ireland has chosen to bear the full cost of keeping this inlet open. While he needs the inlet in order to operate his marina business, the city also owes him a public expression of thanks for such a contribution to maintaining the value of this historical end of the island.

The inlet is now filling again and needs dredging. It is time for the city to acknowledge its obligation to pay a major share of the inlet’s dredging cost.

We can no longer assume that Mr. Ireland has no other choice than to pay his share and pay ours, too. Marinas have been hard hit by the recession. The high price of fuel has reduced boat usage, reduced fuel sales and devastated boat sales. Should the marina find the cost of dredging to be no longer sustainable, the effect on the city would be severe. (One can see the effect of not dredging at the Lighthouse Point Condominium, at 200 Periwinkle Way, where the inlet to its original marina is now completely filled in.)

In conclusion, there are two reasons that the City should recognize its obligation to maintain the Sanibel Inlet:

1. It is to the city’s advantage.

2. It is the right thing to do.

Thank you for your consideration.

James R. Best


Full disclosure: Linda and I are Sanibel residents, own a Bayfront home and spend a majority of the year on the Island. I dock a 22-foot centerboard sailboat at Sanibel Island Marina, but it can operate in less than 1 foot of water.