Beach restoration project may extend over season
The Estero Island Restoration Project, which was approved by the Lee County Board of County Commissioners and the Fort Myers Beach Town Council in late June and withstood delays during the fall, may nudge forward as soon as Dec. 14, when the construction bid submittals and opening is due to the board at its regular meeting.
The action was discussed among county and town officials during an informal workshop at Pink Shell Beach Resort.
The project is estimated to cost $3.7 million with $2 million coming from the state of Florida.
“This is such a critical issue with regards to the timing of the beach restoration,” said Lee County Commissioner Ray Judah. “It’s when should we get started as to why we are here this evening. If we wait until after season, there may be no more beach to be re-nourished. There is that much erosion that is occurring. We really need to step this up. If we can proceed by perhaps late February/March, we could in fact begin with the re-nourishment project.”
County Marine Services Operation Manager Steve Boutelle displayed maps of the restoration area of Estero Island and a timeline chart. He said the sand source for the project is high quality with very low organic content; is expected to come from 1.4 miles from the area’s shoreline; construction direction is generally south to north; there is a 30-day mobilization time frame; a maximum of 150 days to fully complete the project (or face liquidated damages); work accomplished during a 24-hour, 7-days-a-week period; and the southern terminus of the project will be at the southern point of the undeveloped county-owned beach park.
“The construction of the sand placement is hard to predict (time-wise),” said Boutelle. “The physical limitations of (the contractor’s) equipment will determine how quickly they can move the volume of sand that’s required. Once we know who our contractor is, we will have a much better sense of what their typical production rates are and, on average, what we can expect for a timeline.”
Boutelle explained the construction of the terminal groin, dubbed a “jetty,” after former Beach Councilman Bill Shenko asked for a more aesthetically pleasing name change. The jetty will be a 240-foot-long rock structure which is extended above mean high water; must begin before placement of sand due to contract stipulations; is estimated to take 6-8 weeks to construct; and will be built with vinyl sheet piling armored on both sides by different-size stones.
“Dec. 14 is our bid opening, and our agreement that we have with the town requires us to provide a bid signed to the town and gives them up to 30 days to evaluate the bids and our recommendations,” said Boutelle. “Once the commissioners approve the recommendation to award, we have to get the contract signed with whoever the contractor turns out to be. Then they have to get their insurance forms, which provides a construction bonding on file with us. That takes several weeks to work that out before everybody has everything signed on the dotted line. Once that happens, we will issue a contractor notice to proceed. At this point, the way that best-case scenario schedules out, it looks to be about Feb. 14.”
During the actual project, Boutelle said sand placement will involve a 300- to 500-foot area, which will be secured and disallow public access into it. There will be slight-inclined sand ramps to go across the pipe, which will be built no more than 500 feet apart throughout the project’s scope.
“Once they move the construction zone, the beach behind them is ready, available and suitable for use by the public,” Boutelle said.
The final task of the whole project involves a separate contractor who will plant native dune vegetation with a width minimum of 12-15 feet property owners who have secured easements. This process will be coordinated with the rainy season for plant growth (estimated early July timeline).
“We want to work with the property owners and get the details worked out with you,” said Boutelle.
Town Manager Twerry Stewart said Town Environmental Sciences Coordinator Keith Laakkonen will oversee the Beach end of the project.
“I expect their work to be thorough and complete, but we will pay attention to what happens,” said Stewart. “Based upon traditional county work, I do expect a thorough analysis and our staff to be able to look at that and bring something to council on Jan. 3. We will not take the full 30 days.
“As far as the temporary construction easements for the work to be done, there are about 50 percent of those in hand at the present time. Your absolute last date before you will be able to provide an easement and get the work done on your property, is the day they begin pumping sand on your property.”
The presentation, since the workshop was poorly attended, may be repeated at the 9 a.m. Town Council meeting on Monday, Dec. 6.