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CCP to proceed forward with wastewater project

By Staff | Apr 21, 2020

The Captiva Community Panel learned the results of its septic-to-sewer conversion straw poll at its monthly meeting, as well as received an update from its Sea Level Rise Committee and more.

On April 14, Panel Member and Wastewater Committee Chair Jay Brown shared the results of the recent survey, which polled property owners outside of the South Seas Island Resort area to gauge the community’s support for or opposition to converting from septic systems to a central sewer system.

Properties at South Seas are currently provided sewer service through a FGUA plant.

The proposed plan would involve hooking up to the city of Sanibel’s system, with the wastewater treated under an interlocal agreement between Lee County and the city. The project would be funded by the creation of a municipal taxing authority, approved by a majority of owners in the service area.

Initial estimates found that property owners in the new service area would need to be assessed on average $2,000 annually over 30 years to pay back the total project cost. They would also pay the city’s existing, customer wastewater processing fees – an average of about $800 annually per property.

“We decided to do a straw poll of the properties that existed in the (potential) service area,” he said, explaining that the intent was to gauge support before proceeding with feasibility and engineering. “We had about half of the property owners respond. There’s roughly 500 properties in that service area.”

According to the results:

– 66 percent of the respondents “favor” or “strongly favor” the proposed plan

– 27 percent of the respondents “disagree” or “strongly disagree” with the proposed plan

– 8 percent of the respondents are neutral or have no opinion on the proposed plan

“There is a clear majority, in the responses, that people have a favorable opinion,” Brown said.

The Gold Coast, Roosevelt Channel, ‘Tween Waters and Village were all represented.

“The responses were pretty similar neighborhood by neighborhood,” he said.

Brown explained that those against the proposal said they do not think what they are doing now is contributing to a problem, do not think there is sufficient evidence of a problem yet to warrant the big expenditure, think the project will be highly disruptive to the island or the project is too expensive.

One of the questions on the survey asked if the respondent would change their opinion about the proposal if the project’s cost could be reduced significantly by obtaining government financial support. He reported that 60 percent said their opinion would not change and that 40 percent said it might.

“I take this as a significant endorsement that there’s a lot of support for this project,” Brown said.

During the following discussion, President David Mintz reiterated that the poll is not a final vote.

“This is giving us the approval to move forward – we need to get more information for our community to decide,” he said, citing the actual cost, types of disruptions and equipment placement. “We couldn’t ask Lee County to expend funds and time if the community was not interested.”

Brown recommended that the panel continue forward with the project by advocating for a more comprehensive engineering study funded by the county and sharing the poll results with the island and Sanibel. A motion was made to approve the suggestions, which passed with an unanimous vote.

SEA LEVEL RISE COMMITTEE

Sea Level Rise Committee Chair Linda Laird updated the panel on the group’s work.

“We’ve had a lot of things happening,” she said.

Laird reported that consultant Dr. Cheryl Hapke, with Coastal Science Solutions, completed her vulnerability analysis report – the first step in the pro bono study that she is doing for the panel. She found that the most probable threshold for severe impact to infrastructure and roads is a coastal flood advisory with 2 feet of sea-level rise or 4 feet of sea-level rise with the daily high tide conditions.

Hapke also determined Captiva’s coastal typology, which is comprised of 19 miles of coastline including beach, bayside and inlets. Thirty-nine percent is composed of stretches of solid mangroves, 27 percent is sandy beaches and 22 percent is a mix of intermittent mangroves and landscaping.

Laird explained that future steps include the committee selecting “focus areas” at its upcoming meeting, adaption strategies modeling, adaptation strategies selection and community engagement.

Also, she reported that the committee recently submitted a $225,000 pre-proposal – in partnership with the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, Captiva Erosion Prevention District, city of Sanibel and others – to the National Coastal Resilience Fund of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

The fund will invest about $31 million toward projects and includes a new Community Capacity Building and Planning category to support the development of coastal resilience plans and projects.

“What we were working on is Captiva alone,” Laird said, explaining that if the requested funding is approved, the committee will be part of a collaborative integrated effort for the barrier islands.

In the meantime, the committee will continue forward on its path.

“But I think it’s a nice integrated effort for our communities,” she said of the proposal.

Laird also reported that Hans Wilson, for Hans Wilson & Associates, provided a dredge and fill presentation to the committee in February. The take-aways were mangroves can be promoted 10 feet out from the shoreline and seawalls should be replaced with riprap to allow mangroves to move.

Recommendations included taking the shoreline one has and developing a plan, with sea level rise, storm water management and water quality all incorporated. Incentives could also be created.

“There are places where individuals could be taking significant action on their properties,” she said.

FINANCIAL REPORT

Administrator Ken Gooderham provided an update on the panel’s finances in light of COVID-19. He explained that he considered the “cash on hand” over the next six months with no added revenue.

Gooderham reported that there is about $80,000 in the bank.

For expenses, administration and planning – the things that keep the panel running – cost about $4,500 per month. The panel has on the books about $22,000 for the S-curve sidewalk engineering and design owed to Johnson Engineering, along with approximately $1,800 due in June for insurance.

“That would take us down to about $25,000 by November,” he said.

“Do we have enough money to get through the end of the year? Yes,” Gooderham continued, adding that the panel might consider cutting expenses though, like some meetings, to provide a cushion.

Mintz proposed sending out a letter to the community for donations.

After some discussion, the panel decided to draft a letter and circulate it among the panel for comment. Mintz, Treasurer Antje Baumgarten and Gooderham will then send it out at a more appropriate time.

IN OTHER NEWS

– Mintz reported that he reached out to Lee County officials and asked them to close fishing on the Blind Pass Bridge due to COVID-19 social distancing guidelines, but no action has been taken.

– Panel Member John Jensen reported that iguana control continues to come out weekly.

– Mintz asked Vice President Mike Boris to serve as panel representative and chair for the Nominating Committee to fill his and Boris’ positions for when they are both termed out at the end of the year. He recommended Sue Henry, John Dale, Richard Sonking, Jon Rosen and Tom Libonate for the committee members.

Baumgarten and Jensen’s spots are also up for election, but they have not termed out yet.