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November referendum will help determine fate of Captiva beaches

By Staff | Aug 18, 2010

These photo was taken on Aug. 12, the day after a severe thunderstorm swept across the islands. CEPD Senior Administrator Kathy Rooker said that major escarpments, such as the one on Captiva caused by last week’s storm, are only part of the reason that beach nourishment is essential on Captiva.

On the Nov. 2 general election ballot, Captiva property owners will be able to vote on a referendum that would allow the Captiva Erosion Prevention District to get an early start on planning the 2013 beach renourishment project.

Beach renourishment, which involves replacing beach sand lost due to erosion, is done on an eight-year-cycle. The first island-wide nourishment project placed 1.6 million cubic yards of sand in 1988-89. Two more renourishments took place in 1996 and 2004-05.

“Most people that have lived on Captiva through the other nourishment projects know that it’s something that has to be done,” said CEPD Senior Administrator Kathy Rooker.

“First and foremost we want to make sure people get out there and register to vote. If they have property on Captiva or if they’re a resident on Captiva, we want them to exercise their right to vote,” Rooker said.

The last day to register to vote in the Nov. 2 general election is Monday, Oct. 4. Voting will take place at the Captiva Civic Center on Chapin Lane.

“Although CEPD is charged with protecting and preserving our beaches, in order to do a capital project such as beach nourishment, it requires the majority of voters in the election to vote in favor of enabling the CEPD to move forward to secure funding for such a project,” Rooker said. “We’ve had some questions from the community, and what people don’t seem to realize is that they won’t have to pay for the funding of the project until that project is complete. The project won’t begin until late in 2013 and finishing early 2014 — if mother nature cooperates, of course.”

Rooker and the CEPD have spent much of 2010 trying to educate people because many islanders forget that Captiva’s beaches used to be severely eroded, putting the island’s infrastructure in peril.

The major thunderstorm storm that swept across Lee County last Wednesday caused a four foot escarpment on Captiva’s beach and many sea turtle nests were also lost in the storm.

“We have to remind people what Captiva used to look like. There’s a beach there now, and sometimes it’s hard for people to imagine Captiva without a beach. But if we don’t save that beach, it’s going to gone again,” Rooker said.

Steve Keehn of Coastal Planning & Engineering (CP&E) has already constructed a potential beach renourishment model unique to Captiva for the 2013 project.

“Our engineer, Steve, knows Captiva very well. He knows our history, he knows what works and what doesn’t. He knows our beaches, he knows our hot spots and where we have the most erosion. It’s as if he lives here,” Rooker said.

Before Keehn developed a final model, he made observations based on erosion patterns to determine the potential storm protection benefits of a beach renourishment.

CP&E’s senior economist, Dr. Bill Strong did two surveys, one last winter and one over the summer, to determine the potential recreational benefits of a beach renourishment.

The CEPD board approved Keehn’s engineering plan at their July meeting and they are now looking at funding options.

“The next step is the apportionment process,” Rooker said.

At the next CEPD meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 8, Strong and Keehn will present a tentative apportionment model to the board of commissioners, including recreation and storm protection benefits and which areas on Captiva correspond to those criteria.

“Based on the benefits to each property is how they apportion the cost of the project. Apportioning the cost of the project is how you get your assessment,” Rooker said.

Keehn and Strong will ask for input from the commissioners and if the commissioners approve the model. If it’s approved, CP&E will then send out a letter to all Captiva property owners informing them of a tentative apportionment amount and the date of an apportionment hearing, which will give property owners and opportunity to ask CP&E questions about the apportionment process.

Once the project is done and all the final bills have come in, property owners will get another letter with their final payment number — of course, that won’t be until 2014. Then there will be another hearing for property owners to discuss the amount.

CP&E determines use of the property based on information from the Lee County Tax Appraiser’s office.

“For example, if you have a hotel on the Gulf of Mexico, there is huge recreational use. If the hotel is in a hot spot, then you will have a huge storm protection benefit. So, the hotel’s apportionment would be higher based on the benefits the property would receive from the renourishment,” Rooker explained.

Recreational use for single-family homes, Rooker continued, would be much lower, also noting that if the home is not on the Gulf of Mexico, then storm protection benefits would not factor into the apportionment cost.

“The whole goal of the apportionment process is to have a fair process. Dr. Strong will explain how this is done at all of the meetings.”

The apportionment hearing will be held at 5:01 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 20 in the Auger Room at South Seas Island Resort.

Earlier that same day, at 1 p.m., the CEPD will also be presenting an informative program about beach renourishment in the Wakefield Room at ‘Tween Waters Inn.

“We’ll be doing another town hall meeting on the nourishment process and talk about the design of the project and options. The more information people can have before the referendum, the better it is,” Rooker said. “We want people to know that we can’t lose the beach.”

So why is the CEPD doing a referendum now for a project that won’t start until 2013?

Rooker said that getting started early would not only give the CEPD an upperhand in securing the best contractors in the business, but allow them to go after more state and federal funding, thereby further reducing the cost of the project to property owners.

“There are a lot of things we have to do. I want to vigorously go after federal and state funding — but there is a local element to that. When I speak with our congressmen and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, I want to be able to show them that we know local people will support this project and that historically they’ve been a model of beach preservation, that they’ve been proactive and they will continue to do so.”

The Sept. 8 general meeting of the CEPD will take place at noon in the Wakefield Room at ‘Tween Waters Inn, 15951 Captiva Drive.

For more information, call the CEPD at 472-2472 or go to www.MyCEPD.com.