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Panel receives local updates, discusses proposed toll hike

By Staff | Jun 11, 2009

The Captiva Community Panel heard updates from several Captiva organizations, including the Captiva Erosion Prevention District and the Hurricane Response Committee, in addition to learning the status of proposed Tourist Development Council requests and the potential causeway toll increase.

Captiva Erosion Prevention District administrator Kathleen Rooker gave a short presentation about the CEPD’s upcoming dune plantings and brief Blind Pass update.

“The CEPD is cooperating with the county in doing some dune plantings along the back dunes. That’s the area on this ‘Tween Waters stretch, from one curve down to the other curve. All the plantings will be done by hand through a grant from the county and the state. The good thing about dune planting is that it stabilizes the dunes and helps with erosion. It also provides much needed habitat for the animals,” Rooker said.

“Another thing we’re trying to do is to buffer some of the lighting along this stretch of the road from sea turtles, so if we have the back sand dunes nicely planted with large plants, it creates a nice buffer, especially from headlights,” she continued, noting that so far, there are 23 sea turtle nests on the beaches of Captiva.

Regarding Blind Pass, Rooker explained that because of uncooperative weather, the opening of the pass has been delayed.

“Any bit of waves out there will upset the dredge and the dredge cannot function at that time. Also, the sand on the gulf side of the bridge is a little bit different from what it is on the other side. It’s much coarser so it takes the dredge a little bit more time to remove that sand,” Rooker said. “We’re still expecting an opening of the pass in July. July 8 was the date we were given, but I don’t see that happening.”

Next on the agenda was an update from Hurricane Preparation and Response Committee member Doris Holzheimer

“We’ve done all the work that we can do,” Holzheimer said, but she urged people who haven’t done so already to get their hurricane passes and homeowner’s letters turned in as soon as possible.

“Stephanie Dowd (of the Sanibel Police Department) told me she has only given out 84 passes for Captiva and even with one pass per family, that’s significantly down. So we need to still encourage people to get hurricane passes that allow passage across Sanibel in the event of an evacuation,” Holzheimer said.

Information regarding all aspects of storm preparation can be found at the committee’s Web site, www.mycaptiva.info.

“Keep watching the Web site and sign up for Beth’s [Oden] e-mails. The hurricane information from the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration is also on the Web site. They’re saying that there is a 70 percent chance of nine to 14 named storms, of which four to seven could become hurricanes, including one to three major hurricanes, but we don’t know where,” Holzheimer said. “I think what we’re finding at this point in time is apathy. Be ready. If there is a notice for evacuation, get off the island. That’s the best thing you can do.”

The panel also discussed the TDC’s recent rejection of several water quality funding requests, including funds for Captiva and the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation’s water quality testing project.

Panel administrator Ken Gooderham said that the request might be passed onto the County, and encouraged concerned Captivans, should the issue be brought to the County, to contact County Commissioners in support of water quality.

The final topic of discussion, a proposal by Lee County Department of Transportation to increase bridge tolls, was brought up by panel member Sandy Stilwell

“As most of you know, the toll has been proposed to go up to $3. It’s going to be decided in August,” Stilwell said, noting that she and other residents and business owners are compiling any relative facts and figures in regards to the proposed toll hike.

“All the people who come out here – the electricians and the plumbers – their fees are going to go up and our fees are going to go up because it’s going to cost them more money to do business,” Stilwell said.

South Seas Island Resort managing director Rick Hayduk added to the discussion, noting that the resort pays more than $80,000 in employee transportation fees every year. If the toll is increased, Hayduk says it will cost South Seas an additional $50,000.

The panel decided to pursue the issue by drafting a letter to the county condemning any toll increase.