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CEPD special town hall meeting draws crowd

By Staff | Apr 1, 2010

A large crowd attended the CEPD's special town hall meeting on Wednesday.

During the special town hall meeting of the Captiva Erosion Prevention District, topics such as the future of Blind Pass and the importance of beach renourishment were discussed at length for the benefit of the public.

Steve Keehn, senior coastal engineer for Coastal Planning and Engineering, and Robert Neal, engineer for the Lee County Department of Natural Resources, were both in attendance to discuss the benefits of beach renourishment, the reopening of Blind Pass and answer questions from the audience.

Keehn discussed the impacts of beach erosion and how most beach erosion on Captiva is caused.

“Most of the erosion for Captiva Island is actually caused by the opening of Red Fish Pass in the 1920s. It interrupted the sand supply and the island kind of retreated back almost 1,000 feet in the vicinity of Red Fish Pass,” Keehn said, noting that the increase in water flowing through Red Fish Pass helped to diminish flows through Blind Pass, leading to its closure.

Keehn said that the CEPD had tried various methods throughout the years, including bags filled with concrete, to control beach erosion, but none of methods proved effective.

Steve Keehn.

He went on to mention the “Sand Wars” of the 1980s, when Captiva was rigidly divided over the issue of beach renourishment. Since the late 1980s, three renourishment projects have been done on Captiva.

The CEPD links these nourishment projects to property values increasing over time (rising from $221 million in 1985 to $1.5 billion in 2009), though Keehn also said that renourishment is critical for recreational purposes, erosion control, storm protection and habitat restoration, including sea turtle nesting.

CEPD commissioner Doris Holzheimer also spoke during the event, providing a brief history of the organization and what they do for Captiva.

Created in 1959, the CEPD became an official beach and shore preservation authority in 1981, and has since been involved with many important activities, including community education, beach renourishment, dune plantings and lobbying.

CEPD chairman Mike Mullins then spoke about the financial side of beach projects such as renourishment and Blind Pass, but he also went into detail about a U.S. Supreme Court Case (“Stop the Beach Renourishment vs. Florida).

Robert Neal.

A group of beachfront property owners in the panhandle of Florida argue that nourishment projects will reset property lines and their property rights will be taken away without compensation or due process.

The CEPD is concerned with the case because if the Supreme Court goes sides with the disgruntled citizens, the Beach and Shore Preservation act (which enables CEPD nourishment projects) will be at risk.

Following Mullins, Neal spoke about the Blind Pass project.

“We’re still monitoring, but we’re showing great signs of stability and it’s still open,” Neal said. “We know that we have a great project, but we can’t let it get away from us. It’s going to be a continuing monitoring process, and we’ve actually instigated a six month monitoring event that we didn’t originally have planned.”

Neal also asked the audience to send any photos of or comments about the pass that might prove useful to the monitoring project. You can e-mail Neal at RNeal@leegov.com.

The Captiva Erosion Prevention District is located in the Celebration Center, 11513 Andy Rosse Lane, Unit 4.

For more information about the CEPD or beach renourishment, call 472-2472 or visit www.MyCEPD.com.