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Blind Pass stakeholders learn details of inlet study

By Staff | Apr 27, 2016

Steve Boutelle (left) along with Tom Pierro and Michelle Pfeiffer of the Lee County Department of Natural Resources, briefed Blind Pass stakeholders Thursday evening at The Sanctuary about the upcoming inlet management study. BRIAN WIERIMA

The picture of the current Blind Pass inlet management study is much more clearer for the Sanibel-Captiva residents who are affected everyday by the ever-changing pass.

Officials from the Lee County Department of Natural Resources held the first of three inlet management study meetings Thursday, April 22, inside The Sanctuary, to lay out the strategy to stakeholders of Blind Pass.

“This study will be a science-based tool for elected officials to use to help make informed decisions on the pass,” said Lee County Department of Natural Resources Steve Boutelle. “The study is literally in its early stages and it’s always important to get the feedback from you, the residents.”

The second meeting planned with the stakeholders will happen in about two to three months and will lay out the calibration of the model and go over some of the real-time data.

The third meeting will be about two months after the second and will go over the results of the model and study recommendations, along with feedback from the stakeholders of Blind Pass.

A group of about 90-100 Blind Pass stakeholders listened to Lee County Department of Natural Resource engineers Steve Boutelle, Tom Pierro and Michelle Pfeiffer inside The Sanctuary Thursday, April 21. BRIAN WIERIMA

Blind Pass is the inlet which separates Sanibel and Captiva islands, with the history of it being complex in nature, with it being manipulated over time by both human and natural forces.

In 1953, Old Blind Pass opened to the south. Since pre-1921 through 2009, Blind Pass would be opened and closed periodically. In 1970, the pass would be closed up.

Hurricane Agnes changed the pass for good in 1972, after the storm re-opened it. In 1989, the “terminal groin” was extended 100 feet and in 2001, it was mechanically opened, but closed shortly after.

The Blind Pass Restoration Project started in 2008-2009, with the inlet being dredged for the first time. In August of 2012, Phase I of the project included dredging it, with Phase II opening in April of 2013, which was the first maintenance dredging.

Michelle Pfeiffer of Lee County Department of Natural Resources, gave a presentation of what the inlet management study will consist of, including evaluating changes and trends in the inlet, shoals and adjacent beaches; establishing maintenance options and establishing a monitoring plan.

An aerial photo of Blind Pass pre-1950’s, which depicts a very different looking landscape. PHOTO PROVIDED

Pfeiffer included the study’s scope, which includes:

Inlet history

Sediment budget

Develop and test management strategies

Management recommendations

Study report

Stakeholder input

Forming a technical advisory committee

FDEP adoption of the plan.

“The main goal is to have the FDEP adopt the plan,” Pfeiffer said.

By the third meeting, the objective goals is to update the 1995 inlet management study and to maintain Blind Pass and keep it open with good water quality.

Dredging and nourishment plans also need to be implemented, which will help extend the life of related beach projects.

The Blind Pass infrastructure also needs to be maintained, while also keeping the level of recreation access to a regular status.

The final objective Pfeiffer laid out is to also define potential impacts to navigation, which in essence, means the bridge over the pass.

Factors which already have been identified in contributing to erosion on the north end of Sanibel and the sand which flows into the inlet, include longshore transport, tidal prism and currents.

These factors will be evaluated by gauges and equipment which has been placed in and around Blind Pass and will be included into the study.

The study will also be unitized collaboratively by Lee County, Captiva Erosion Prevention District (CEPD) and the City of Sanibel, who all had representation at the meeting April 22.

For more information on the study, contact Boutelle at 239-533-8128 or email at sboutelle@leegov.com.