Council OKs temporary measures to preserve road
At a special meeting, the Sanibel City Council declared a state of local emergency and authorized emergency protective measures related to the ongoing erosion at the west end of the island off Sanibel-Captiva Road, as well as approved funding to implement the protective measures.
Today, the council voted 4-0 to adopt a resolution declaring the state of emergency and proceeding forward with protective measures, including the temporary placement of one-ton sandbags along the shoreline in the area, as recommended by staff in a presentation during the meeting.
Following additional staff recommendations, the council also voted 4-0 to approve $38,450 in emergency funding, which entails $20,000 to Soon Come Landscaping for vegetation removal and site preparation for the sandbags and $18,450 to BJ Excavating Enterprises for sandbag placement.
In addition, council agreed to exempt the emergency protection measures and the permanent San-Cap road emergency shore protection project from permitting under the city’s Land Development Code.
Prior to the vote, Natural Resources Director James Evans and Community Services Director Keith Williams provided background about the site, like the impact Hurricane Michael had in 2018 as a late-season storm. Due to its timing, the site lost more sand than the normal amount it does in the winter.
“We’ve been watching that area for the past two years, year and a half – it never recovered,” Evans said, adding that now it has turned into a situation where the erosion is coming up to the San-Cap road. “That is a concern – because it is the primary evacuation route from Captiva and northern Sanibel.”
Staff reviewed the permanent emergency shore protection project that is in the pipeline.
Evans reported that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection was set to issue the work permits last week, but staff felt the need to take emergency protection measures so they are pending. It stemmed from an examination of the site after the island’s first major cold front in late November.
“We were very concerned,” he said of what they observed.
Evans reported that the erosion was 8 feet to 10 feet from the edge of the road pavement.
“What we need to do is address that through the temporary placement of sandbags,” he said, explaining that the start of the permanent project is still a few months out and that once the permits are issued the city would no longer quality for approval to put temporary measures in place as long as they are active.
The emergency protection measures will entail placing two rows of one-ton sandbags in the most vulnerable areas along the road, plus one row in additional areas, for a total of about 100 bags. By state statute, a state of emergency is required to implement the measures, which have a 60-day window.
The city can ask for an extension if needed while it continues work on the permanent project.
“We’ve talked to the DEP folks and they’re very supportive of us doing this project,” Evans said.
He continued that if council votes to declare a state of emergency, staff can contact the contractors immediately and it would take a few weeks to mobilize and prep the site for the emergency measures. All must be implemented within 30 days – Jan. 18 – or the state can declare it a non-emergency.
As for the permanent project, Evans reported that staff anticipate the work permits would be issued Dec. 20, as council will have decided on whether to proceed on the emergency measures. A bid notice for the project is expected to be issued on Jan. 6, with a contract in February for council to vote on.
Contractor mobilization could then start in March for a project that the city’s engineers anticipate will take about 60 days to complete, so end of April or early May – before the start of turtle nesting season.
The project will be bid out two ways with different materials and will include a renourishment trigger.
“Once the erosion gets to a certain point,” he said in reference to monitoring and maintaining the area into the future. “That would require us to put sand in front of that area to protect it further.”
“(It’s) something to indicate that we need to take action,” Evans added.
The estimated cost for the permanent project is $1,418,450, which includes the proposed $38,450 in emergency funds. According to Evans, the city plans to apply for emergency funding for the measures via the Lee County Tourism Development Council, as well as a cost-share for the permanent project.
“We feel it directly impacts tourism and Lee County,” he said, adding that previous projects have been approved favorably by the TDC and county. “There’s a number of factors that we can make a case.”
During discussion, several of the council members had questions or asked for clarification on some aspect on the protective measures or permanent project. Some on the dais offered their thoughts.
“The last two years have been difficult for the residents on the west end dealing with this,” Councilmember Jason Maughan said, citing public safety, economic impact and quality of life as why the resolution deserves support. “The beach has to be replaced, the road has to be repaired.”
“Area citizens have waited patiently for 30 years for this to be sorted out. Patience is at an end. The people on the west end have suffered enough,” he continued. “We need to act today.”
Mayor Kevin Ruane expressed his support for the resolution.
“We’re going to need to do this project,” he said, adding that the city also will hopefully move forward with a recommendation from the TDC to the county to award funds to assist with the planned work.