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CEPD chairman discusses the next cycle for healthy beaches

By Staff | Jun 10, 2009

Imagine Captiva without the beach we know and love.

Captiva’s beach faces threats of survival as never before. Imagine the ramifications on property values, tourism and lifestyles (ours and the many critters with whom we share our beaches).

In this issue and coming issues, you will be offered background information about the beach nourishment process and asked to join with the CEPD in protecting our beach through understanding the processes of beach nourishment and the funding associated with these processes.

There is much to learn about the rationale for beach nourishment as well as to increase your awareness of the growing opposition to these methods of beach protection. You will learn that opposition is gaining support as governments look to take our tax dollars away from beach nourishment and apply elsewhere. The CEPD intends to lead the charge to protect our beach and surrounding waters, CEPD asks for your attention and support.

The CEPD, a duly elected independent special district, performs regular Captiva beach nourishment on a seven-to-eight year cycle as well as on an emergency basis. Our beach is nourished with as much as 1.3 million cubic yards of sand in a single nourishment project. While Mother Nature provides a good supply of the sand comprising our beach and dune system, it seldom stays where we want or need it and the supply is not as steady or reliable as in the past.

We all know that tides ebb and flow, but we also need to realize that with the tidal movements, this dynamic barrier island system alters accordingly; with storms, the beach erodes dramatically, passes open and close. What would happen without regular replenishment of sand from our managed nourishment process?

Without CEPD intervention, dramatic beach erosion is a sobering fact of life. Captiva could quickly become an island defenseless against major storm events. Should you have doubt, we will regularly exhibit pictures of Captiva’s beach before and after the regular process of nourishment established by the CEPD.

We will share pictures that depict the shores of Captiva ravaged by the insidious process of erosion and storm events. We encourage you to share your pictures with us as well. The history of Captiva’s struggle to save its beaches will provide a valuable and necessary lesson.

In coming issues, we will be presenting this pictorial history of Captiva’s beach nourishment process from the not too distant past to the present day. The pictures of Captiva’s beach without regular replenishment of the sand are a stark and sobering reminder of the powerful erosion and tidal forces of Mother Nature.

CEPD’s Commissioners oversee your nationally recognized beach management program which seems to make beach nourishment on Captiva appear to be a routine ans simple process. However, a historical review will demonstrate that neither the beach nourishment nor the funding sources to protect your beach derive from a simple process.

In recent decades, the very idea of nourishment was anathema to some living on Captiva. The skeptics abound and there are signs of this opposition arising again. Couple this historical threat with an even bigger challenge going forward re the funding obstacles now facing the CEPD. Our federal, state and local governments are increasingly seeking ways to curtail spending on proven beach nourishment programs thought to be sacrosanct. This raises the question of “Who pays for Captiva beach nourishment?”

Your elected CEPD works on behalf of Captiva to secure equitable federal, state and county funding sources for Captiva beach restoration and nourishment projects. Historically, cost sharing with various government funding sources has significantly reduced the amount assessed directly to property owners. CEPD orchestrated that each dollar spent on the last beach nourishment project was matched by almost four dollars from funding partners, with a first time and substantial contribution coming from CEPD accumulated reserves.

Despite the major Gulf storms of 2004 and later, Captiva received a beautiful and effectively nourished beach at a total cost of over $25 million. Of this, only $5.5 million was eventually assessed to Captiva property owners. Your CEPD District has had a very successful track record in obtaining equitable funding sources for beach nourishment projects. Most recently including, importantly, applying $1 million from the District’s own accumulated reserves to reduce the share assessed to Captiva taxpayers.

CEPD Commissioners, your stewards of the taxpayers money, take their roles as fiduciaries seriously. Budgeted expenses for administration have remained essentially flat in recent years despite the discontinuity resulting from the untimely demise of Alison Hagerup, CEPD administrator for over 20 years. Business continuity was successfully maintained, services and technology enhanced, duties and responsibilities of the district have been appropriately expanded to meet the challenges of finding future funding. When the last project was bonded in 2005, CEPD negotiated a very low 3.5 percent rate on the loan to pay Captiva’s cost share. Major funding was obtained from the sources mentioned: federal funds including FEMA storm repair funds, state erosion control assisted funding and Lee County Tourist Development Council’s beach and shoreline funds (derived from bed taxes on visitors lodging on Captiva).

In the past, participating agencies have recognized that each state dollar spent protecting Florida’s beaches prevented the loss of $8 in government tax revenues. Our major task will be to assure that such extraordinary and relevant facts will continue to be recognized in the future. Did you know revenues on rental of Captiva lodgings alone generated over $3 million in bed taxes in 2008 to Lee County and another $3.6 million to the state? CEPD fights for an equitable return of such taxes to protect Captiva’s beach and to continue promoting successful tourism, a cornerstone of justification for Captiva’s beach nourishment programs.

Our most daunting challenge going forward will be finding and obtaining equitable funding to keep Captiva’s beaches healthy and well nourished, we can only do it with your help.