County favors partial Beach re-nourishment plan
The Lee County Board of County Commissioners ended speculation and debate regarding sand re-nourishment on much of Fort Myers Beach at its Management and Planning meeting Monday. Due to the inability to secure enough easements from FMB beach front property owners for the Estero Island Shore Protection Project, the county board members decided to choose staff-recommended option C for the Beach re-nourishment status: Design and construct a modified project centering on the primary county coastal infrastructure including Lynn Hall and Bowditch Beach parks and the navigational channel into Matanzas Pass.
“There’s a recognition that we need to protect public assets including Bowditch and Lynn Hall parks and the fishing pier,” said Lee County Commissioner Ray Judah. “It looks like that is the area of the Beach –the northern end of the island– which we can actually secure enough easements to move forward with a beach re-nourishment project. “
Judah said the project could go as far as and include the Lani Kai Resort.
“It depends on how many easements we can secure between now and the second or third week of January,” he said. “This is based on the fact that there is no more involvement with the federal government and therefore no more requirement for any new public accesses.”
Even though the previous plan called for beach nourishment efforts as far south as Sterling Avenue, Judah still is optimistic the modified version will help the island’s most eroded area.
“There is certainly a strong likelihood that we will be able to move forward with the beach re-nourishment project from Bowditch to and including the fishing pier and, quite possibly, further south predicated on securing additional easements,” he said.
In late April, the county executed an inter-local agreement with the town “to define roles and responsibilities for implementation” of the long-standing original project. Key parcels on Fort Myers Beach were identified and easements were solicited. Since then, three mailings, one workshop, one radio show and more than 24 meetings with individual property owners as well as a easement rescission clause were involved in the project’s scope. As a result, the percentage of easements went from 63.4 to 42.4 to 49.7, according to county records.
Citing a difficulty for securing easements and the expiration of a $2 million Department of Environmental Protection state fund for the project at the end of 2009, the BOCC decided to choose the modified project which would “reduce the dredge frequency requirement of the channel “and “stabilize the northern end of the island by construction of the terminal groin.”
The other two options available for the BOCC to consider would have been to a) terminate the project work or b) construct the project. Option A would have released the state DEP appropriations for other Florida beach projects and kept the vulnerability of the critically eroded shoreline on the north end of the island. Option B would have caused the previous project to be more costly, complicated and less effective with gaps and increased county funding. It included finalizing construction plans and hiring a contractor to build the project with whatever obtainable easements.
While trying to secure easements and through commentary with the beach front property owners, the county and town staffs recognized that a voluntary vegetation planting requirement would have helped in easement participation.
The county commission and Town of Fort Myers Beach will meet after the regular board meeting Tuesday to again consider the issue.