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CEPD charts Blind Pass progress, discusses off-shore drilling

By Staff | Jul 16, 2009

The Captiva Erosion Prevention District held their monthly meeting last Wednesday, where board members discussed the stalled Blind Pass project, the threatened status of the State of Florida’s beach nourishment program and potential off-shore gas and energy exploration in the gulf.

The CEPD has set a date for a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of the Blind Pass on Sept. 25 at 10 a.m., but significantly slowed production might push the celebration even further into 2009.

“The schedule we’ve been getting from Robert (Neal of the Lee County Department of Natural Resources) is inaccurate. If you look at the production rate and his schedule, there is a disconnect. We need to find a way to the end of this project,” said Kathleen Rooker, CEPD administrator.

Commissioners agreed that the 10-inch dredge being utilized for the project is inadequate in handling rough water conditions, and since their monthly meeting have begun to search for answers as to why the project has all but come to a halt.

“Our construction manager (CP&E) said right from the beginning that they would never use a 10 inch dredge in the gulf, you should always use a 15-inch dredge. Now, we all know in hindsight that it was not a good idea to accept a scope of work involving a 10-inch dredge [but] we know it now,” CEPD Commissioner Rene Miville said during the meeting.

“The bottom line is, the 10-inch dredge that we have can only perform under pristine conditions, meaning almost zero wave activity – beyond one foot waves, it can’t work,” Miville continued.

“They (the production crew) have been achieving about 800 cubic yards per day and we have 30,000 cubic yards to go. If you crunch the numbers, we’d need about 40 pristine days to accomplish that,” Miville said, noting that especially during hurricane season, 40 consecutively ideal days is an impossibility.

The CEPD – as of July 13 – are continuing to look for solutions to get the project back on schedule.

Also of concern to the CEPD is a potential threat to the state of Florida’s Beach and Shoreline Preservation Act, a law that greatly assists the CEPD in their beach renourishment efforts.

“We’ve got some very critical issues. Funding is one of them and possible opposition to renourishment is another issue. The biggest issue that we may face is that the supreme court has decided to hear a case called ‘Stop the beach renourishment of Walton County versus Florida DEP,'” said chairman Mike Mullins, noting that the case involves Walton County citizens challenging the rationale of the Beach Preservation Act of Florida, a law which enables the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to declare a beach as critically eroded and help to support renourishment.

When the beaches are renourished, Mullins explained, the land that is seaward of the erosion control line down to the tide then becomes the property of the State of Florida.

“This group that’s trying to stop the beach nourishment in Walton County has said that it’s violating their constitutional rights. They’re saying it’s a taking because the land now belongs to the state,” Mullins said.

“They lost in the Florida appellate court and they lost in the Florida Supreme Court, but these people have taken it now to the supreme court of the United States and they’ve decided to hear the case. This could be a big problem, and even if the court case goes our way, and the Beach Preservation Act of Florida is settled as it is today, we still have further problems as to whether will we get engineering funding at the level we’ve been getting it from Florida DEP, will we get TDC funding… it’s just a lot of issues at play,” Mullins said.

The CEPD also discussed the possibility of gas and energy exploration off the coast of Florida.

According to Rooker, Debbie Flack of the Florida Shore and Beach Preservation Association (FSBPA) has been contacting beach related organizations throughout Florida.

“She was requesting all over the state any agencies who had done resolutions opposing oil and gas exploration and of course, the CEPD had already done one, so and we sent her a copy of that,” Rooker said, noting that she also passed along some photographs she had taken during a recent trip of imposing oil structures off the coast of California.

“She shares our concerns. At the FSBPA conference in September, there is going to be a meeting for concerned people to strategize what we’re going to do to stop the gas exploration off the coast of Florida. And you can be sure we’re going to be at that meeting,” Rooker added.

If you’d like more information about the CEPD, call 472-2472.