CEPD, city updated on interlocal agreement
Members of the Captiva Erosion Prevention District’s commission and staff from the city of Sanibel recently held a workshop to discuss an interlocal agreement in the works between the entities.
On April 23, CEPD Chairman Mike Mullins, Vice Chair Bob Walter and Commissioner Michael Lanigan, along with Administrator Joe Wagenti, met via Zoom with Natural Resources Director James Evans and Environmental Specialist Joel Caouette to go over the details and progress of the deal.
Once finalized – and if signed off on by the Sanibel City Council – the interlocal agreement will enable the two entities to again work in collaboration on beach renourishment projects, such as the one planned. They previously had a 15-year deal in place to do this, but the agreement expired in 2015.
“We’ve been working with Mike (Mullins) and the CEPD on revisiting this interlocal agreement,” Evans said, noting that it is under review by the city attorney. “We’re working on some draft language.”
“We’re looking at it in the spirit of partnership,” he added.
Evans explained that the intent of the collaboration is to mitigate the impact in the Blind Pass area for Sanibel and Captiva and to figure out which entity is responsible for which portions of the project.
He noted that along with erosion, sea level rise is a new factor being considered.
Mullins reported that the CEPD’s upcoming beach renourishment – postponed to 2021 – will require 24/7 access to the area, which he hopes the city council will agree with as it has for past projects.
“We’ll also need staging areas for the equipment,” he said, explaining that he would like to ensure details such as this and others are addressed within the language of the new draft agreement.
City participation in future projects could open the door to additional funding opportunities.
“We think there’s a benefit to including Sanibel’s side of the project,” Mullins said.
Mullins reported that consultant APTIM is doing the survey and design work for the upcoming project. He asked Wagenti about the status of a Lee County Tourist Development Council funding request.
Wagenti replied that the TDC is expected to vote in May.
“If the schedule stays the same,” he said, referring to the potential for changes due to COVID-19.
The CEPD was able to delay the upcoming renourishment, originally set for this year, because erosion rates are better than thought. It also wants a better idea of the project’s scope and size, plus funding.
“We didn’t need to do anything right away,” Mullins said.
“I think all this has to wait until the whole COVID situation goes away,” he added.
On the subject of available funding, Evans reported that the TDC has received beach and shoreline funding requests totaling about $15.4 million for projects for fiscal year 2020-21. In addition, each year $2.2 million of the TDC funds are set aside in a trust fund for county beach renourishment projects.
“It’s a mechanism to fund the maintenance and renourishment of beaches in Lee County,” he said, noting that the funding in the trust could be used for say island or Fort Myers Beach projects.
“It’s bed tax money,” Evans added. “We have the opportunity every year to make requests.”
However, he continued, approved funds out of the trust only cover a portion of the project.
“It’s not going to be 100 percent of the project,” Evans said.
Lanigan asked about how vulnerable the funding mechanisms are to economic conditions.
Evans reported that Lee County Natural Resources Manager Stephen Boutelle would be the best person to answer that, however, beach and nourishment projects “generally get funded right off the top.”
Walter also voiced concern about the impact of COVID-19 on current versus future funds.
“I’m more interested in seeing the changes in projections for their budgets,” he said, referring to the next couple of years and adding that he expects a 30 percent to 40 percent difference in figures.