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Beach erosion project in design phase

By Staff | Apr 20, 2019

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The city of Sanibel anticipates having design plans in the next week or so for a project aimed at addressing beach erosion on the northern end of the island, adjacent to Sanibel-Captiva Road.

Earlier this year, the city hired the coastal engineering firm Humiston & Moore Engineers, out of Naples, to examine the area near Pine Avenue and Castaways Beach and Bay Cottages and to develop possible options, like beach renourishment or additional shoreline stabilization, to solve the issue.

On April 18, Natural Resources Director James Evans reported that the survey data had been completed. The firm is now using the information to design the dimensions and placement of the new riprap revetment – rock structure – and to determine the extent of the new sand placement.

“That will essentially be the project,” he said.

Evans noted that city staff hope to have the design in the next couple weeks.

James Evans

“The goal of the project is to protect the roadway and public infrastructure, but also to protect the adjacent properties – the private properties – there,” he said.

Evans added that the aim is to place sand on top of and in front of the riprap.

“The goal is to cover that structure, so the shoreline is soft not hard,” he said.

There will also be a restoration component, including new vegetation and plantings.

The improvements will help the city determine when to revisit the area in the future.

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“We’re also using that structure as a trigger for when we do beach renourishment,” Evans said, explaining that once the rocks are exposed, they know to place sand before it is a bigger problem.

Sanibel identifies and tracks erosional hot spots on the island with annual surveys, and the area has been on the city’s radar. It received renourishment in the past in conjunction with projects for Captiva.

However, the continually worsening erosion has been attributed to the beach never fully recovering after Hurricane Irma, followed by last season and the late storms. The beaches naturally accumulate sand in the summer and lose sand in the winter because of the direction of the wind. When there are late-summer storms, the sand is lost not acquired, so the beach heads into winter with a sand deficit.

“We are treating it as an emergency project, primarily for the proximity of the erosion to the road,” Evans said.

Since the city started looking into the issue, it and the firm have met several times with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. At a meeting last week, the DEP was supportive so far.

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“They had no major issues with what was proposed,” he said.

The city still has to apply for a permit from the agency.

Evans explained that once the design is complete, it will be presented to the Sanibel City Council for approval and the permit sought. Any requirements by the DEP will be built into the project at that time.

“We’re also going to have to obtain funding for this project, which we haven’t done,” he said.

Evans noted that there is a potential for partnering with Lee County on assistance through the Tourist Development Council’s beach and shoreline stabilization program, plus possible bed tax funding.

“It is there for these types of projects, where there is public access,” he said.

Once the project is approved, permit received and contractor hired, the project can begin.

“I hope that we can have the project constructed by the September-October time frame,” Evans said, noting that that would be before the cold fronts arrive. “Most of these projects can take months.”

He added that having it finished in the summer months would offer an advantage because the improvements will naturally acquire additional sand on top of what the city places, before winter arrives.