Mantanzas Pass dredging project ready to begin
Southwind Construction, a contractor from Evansville, Ind., was expected to start a much-anticipated dredging project in the Mantanzas Pass Entrance Channel this week, according to officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The nearly $2 million contract was awarded April 29 after the Army Corps issued an emergency dredging permit for the Lee County channel in early February.
The Army Corps will finance the construction.
At Friday’s pre-construction conference at the Fort Myers Beach Town Hall, officials from the Army Corps, U.S. Coast Guard, an environmental agency as well as contracting and subcontracting companies reviewed the conditions and terms for the project.
Under the general scope of the project, the work will consist of two cuts in the channel to a 12-foot required depth with 2 feet allowable over-depth.
The total amount to be dredged will be approximately 225,000 cubic yards, with placement in a designated near-shore area approximately one-quarter mile east of the pier.
It also involves the removal of approximately 2.3 acres of upland beach which accumulated into the federal navigation channel via long-shore sediment transport.
The process involves a governmental Notice to Proceed order.
Endangered Species Monitoring featuring turtle nesting and shorebird nesting will be conducted by Turtle Time founder Eve Haverfield.
“Lee County anticipated that the project would start early so that’s why I was out there March 1,” said Haverfield. “The regulation is that sea turtle monitoring would have had to been done 65 days prior to the project.”
A clearing and grubbing process by subcontractor Boyd Irrigation of North Fort Myers is expected off of Bowditch Point. The work is by daylight and should take a maximum of five days.
Then comes the actual dredging process — a 24-hour operation with a duration period of six to eight weeks. This is anticipated to begin Wednesday.
During the time frame, all vessel traffic will pass to the north of the dredging plant and ancillary for the first cut of the project and, once the plant is relocated for the second cut, traffic will be directed to the south of the plant.
“There should be no need for channel closure or restrictions,” said Darrell Stewart, project manager of Southwind Construction.
Stewart said the construction equipment was mobilized from New Smyrna Beach to Fort Myers Beach, and his staff of 22 will work 12-hour shifts until the work is done.
“I’m pleased that this project is finally moving forward and that dredging will soon begin in the Pass. This dredging project is long overdue,” said U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fort Myers. “The dangerous conditions in Matanzas Pass pose serious risks to boaters, the Coast Guard’s ability to respond to emergencies and the environment. The sooner we can dredge the pass, the sooner we can make it safer and more navigable for all boats.”
Grant Erikson of Erikson & Jenson Seafood represented the shrimp industry at Friday’s meeting.
“It looked like all the factions were satisfied at the meeting,” he said. “People were working together well. Hopefully, we’ll see the dredgers out there and get this long overdue process done.”
Erikson said he would rather see a long-term solution put in place — blocks of natural rock piled up to hold the depth of the channel
“Let’s be smart about this,” he said. “The channel is going to be there for a long, long time. The way to address this continuing problem is to make it a forever thing by putting jetties there. People love them. I think they’d be appealing looking, a fish haven and an attraction.”