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Proposed seawall standards could prove costly

By Staff | Aug 15, 2019

A potential change in seawall standards in Cape Coral could find waterfront homeowners digging much deeper into their pockets for repairs and replacements.

Industry leader Honc Marine’s Senior Estimator and Project Manager, Geoff Campbell, said if the current proposal for seawall changes are approved, there could “easily be a 200% or more” increase in costs.

On the city’s website, the most recent proposal of revisions to current standards was posted Aug. 9. Residents have until by the end of business day today — just one week since the new changes were made — to make their voices heard.

“It seems to be pretty short sighted on the city’s part,” said Campbell.

The 200% increase in costs, Campbell said, can be attributed to the city wanting to require stainless steel in seawalls, among other new stipulations, driving up equipment costs for installers and their customers.

Campbell estimated that the average job, around 80-feet of seawall costing around $40,000, could be upwards of $150,000 with the proposed new provisions.

Under current standards, Honc uses epoxy coated steel in concrete to reinforce the structure; the city wants to use stainless steel in their new engineering standards, drawn up by Blot Engineering.

Campbell said the city looked to engineers to construct “the best seawall money can buy,” and make that the standard for all seawalls in the Cape.

“Price is not the only concern with stainless steel,” said Campbell. “In certain positions, stainless steel is not as strong as rebar.”

The new codes, as proposed, also call for concrete to be 50% below the mudline, something that Campbell said is unnecessary and could cause nearby seawalls that are not currently at the 50% standard to fail.

The current standard for seawalls is 40% penetration of panel, or percentage of panel that is actually holding back the land/soil.

“I’ve never seen a seawall fail because 40% penetration wasn’t enough,” said Campbell.

This standard, if adopted, would cause companies to dig up to 2 feet deeper.

Campbell said the issue with this is a rock bed under canals that would need to be removed with larger equipment — another cost raiser — and could negatively affect nearby seawalls, as they are also depending on that same rock bed for stability.

“It’s going to undermine other nearby seawalls by digging deeper or if we try to rip and tug it out,” Campbell said.

To keep other seawalls from being undermined, Campbell said neighboring walls also will have to be reinforced, another cost measure to the customer, and, a headache for a neighbor who may not even give construction permission on their property or without compensation.

Potential collateral damage to surrounding structures could even make seawalls jobs impossible, said Campbell.

Panels going into the ground would now have to be 12-16 feet, said Campbell, as opposed to the 8-foot panels used now.

Revisions to seawall codes have been undertaken by the city dating back to July of last year, and public input was sought by the city through advertisements in local media and on their website.

“These standards have been under review since July 2018,” said city spokesperson, Maureen Buice, in an email. “Staff is working closely with industry stakeholders to calibrate and fine tune the seawall design standards before presenting them to Council.”

Buice said she did not have a timeline for when the current reworked standards will be presented to City Council for approval.

Campbell, and Honc, have requested meetings with the city and Public Works division, who is overseeing the changes, headed by Paul Clinghan.

Campbell said the 2018 version of revisions did not include stainless steel and that they’ve met with the city about 10 times during the past year, and that each time they came back to the table, things got worse from an industry perspective.

The 2018 designs, Campbell said, were unacceptable.

“We went ballistic. It was bad,” Campbell said. “But not as bad as 2019. They were willing to meet with the industry leaders but I can’t say they are working with us. The standards have only gotten worse over the last year of trying to work with Paul Clinghan at Public Works and Ed Blot of Blot engineering.”

Campbell said the city is looking for Department of Transportation standards for residential seawalls of Cape Coral, and that that’s unrealistic.

“The residents of Cape Coral will not be well served by these changes,” Campbell said. “Residential seawalls must be built with the residents and budget in mind. Residential seawalls are not government funded projects with unlimited resources and funding.”

Cape resident and President of the Palm Vista Condominiums, Inc., Wayne Nystrom, said that his property is in need of a new seawall, and that now, because of these potential changes, is worried about getting things done in time before the changes occur.

“Our board has just learned that our 30-year-old seawall has serious problems,” Nystrom said. “Accordingly, as we began to research options with qualified seawall contractors in Cape Coral, I was shocked to learn about the increased prices we’re likely to face if we wait until 2020.”

He is also discouraged that residents only had a week to give their input since the latest revisions came out.

“If they’re going to make changes that dramatic, what are we going to do?” he asked.

Nystrom is concerned about costs of the new seawall if changes are made, and more importantly, is worried about those in his complex walking away from their property.

“This could negatively affect property values,” Nystrom said.

More than half of Cape Coral’s 400 miles of canals are built out or sea-walled.

To provide your public input, visit www.capecoral.net, find the “public works” division under “departments,” select “design and construction division,” followed by “seawall engineering design standards.”

Or, email Design and Construction Manager, Stephanie Smith at SRSmith@capecoral.net by end of business day today.

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj