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Bayous Preservation Association to hold Blind Pass meeting Feb. 9

By Staff | Jan 26, 2011

When the pass opened, many members of the Bayous Preservation Association noticed an abundance of fish and wildlife returning to the back bay system.

On Wednesday, Feb. 9, the Bayous Preservation Association will host a public meeting for islanders concerned with the infill of Blind Pass.

The meeting will be a chance for island residents to address representatives of the Lee County Division of Natural Resources responsible for the Blind Pass Restoration project.

The Bayous Preservation Association, made of approximately 350 members, tested water quality for two years before the pass was open, and then contracted the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation to continue testing after the pass opened in 2009.

According to Bayous Preservation Association member Annie Vanderbilt, the SCCF found that dissolved oxygen levels — one of the most important indicators of good water quality — had increased since Blind Pass opened.

“From the Bayous Preservation Association’s viewpoint,” Vanderbilt said, “the restoration of Blind Pass has been an environmental success. We, who live around the pass and in the bayous, now see mullet jumping, big schools of bait fish swimming and egrets and herons lining the shores and fishing all the time. The pass being open has shown to us an ecosystem on the upswing.

“Economically, the pass being open is a huge benefit — you can see the increase in people fishing, people on the beach, people collecting shells. It’s a great draw for Sanibel and Captiva, and the economic benefits are certainly commensurate with the environmental benefits,” Vanderbilt said.

But, as many islanders have noticed, the pass is filling in.

“Presently, the pass, shows signs of decreased water flow and we feel steps must be taken to restore flow. We’d like to see immediate maintenance dredging — but to the County, six months is ‘immediate,’” Vanderbilt said, referencing the permit modification Lee County submitted in October, which would allow for maintenance dredging of the pass this summer. “We know that the pass is not going to be open tomorrow, but the Bayous Preservation Association wants to maintain water quality. We never had manatees, and since the pass has opened, we have manatees in Sunset Bay. Sometimes this whole bayou is just mullet jumping, like a ballet in the water. These things never happened before. And while the only conclusive result from the water quality testing we did after the pass was opened was increased levels of dissolved oxygen, the point is, everyone who lives in the Bayous can see the difference in our waters’ health. Our water quality — from Clam Bayou all the way up through Roosevelt Channel — depends on the pass.

During the public meeting on Feb. 9, Lee County will be giving an update on the status of Blind pass and projected maintenance dredging, which Blind Pass project manager Robert Neal of the Lee County Division of Natural Resources said is likely to take place this summer after the County completes dredge work on Fort Myers Beach.

A question and answer session will follow.

“We worked closely with Robert Neal throughout the restoration project, and I think he can dispel some of myths that are going around and give concerned residents some of the hard facts,” Vanderbilt said. “The Bayous Preservation Association is remaining very positive about the pass and about working with Lee County, the CEPD and the City of Sanibel. We want to be cooperative and supportive because we want the pass to stay open. We would also love to see a long-term management and maintenance plan from the County — we can’t always be reacting.”

The meeting, which will take place in the main dining room of the Sanctuary Golf Club on Sanibel, 2250 Wulfert Road, is free and open to the public.