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CCP gives Blind Pass Bridge issue formal go

By Staff | May 19, 2020

The Captiva Community Panel agreed to formally request that Lee County prohibit fishing from the Blind Pass Bridge at its recent meeting, as well as discussed how to proceed with an engineering study for a possible central sewer system and received an update on the Sea Level Rise Committee’s work.

On May 12, President David Mintz provided an overview of the panel’s communications with the county over the past year regarding the bridge. In July, the CCP voted in favor of closing the bridge to fishing due to safety concerns for pedestrians and advised Lee County’s manager of its stance on the situation.

It also suggested installing an ADA-accessible fishing structure as a replacement.

In August, a memo was sent to Commissioner John Manning outlining the same. The panel contacted the county again in September after nothing was done, and in December the county’s Department of Transportation offered to put in rubber poles between the edge of the traffic lanes and concrete barrier.

The poles would have allowed fishermen to continue using the walkways on both sides of the bridge, while creating a new path for pedestrians to use – the area that currently serves as a bicycle lane.

The CCP responded with two counter-proposals: allow fishing off only the Gulf side of the bridge, reserving the other side of the bridge as a pedestrian walkway; or remove the existing barrier and install a new removable barrier along the edge of the traffic lanes to basically make both pathways wider.

The county “did not have a positive reaction” to the proposals at the time.

Mintz reported that the panel met with Manning in January and again requested that the bridge be divided up for pedestrians and fishermen – one to each side – but no action was taken. In March, it raised concerns about the inability for social distancing on the walkways, but no action was taken.

“And that’s where we stand today,” he said.

Panel Member Mike Mullins noted that he recently spoke to Commissioner Cecil Pendergrass, who reported being unaware of any issues at the bridge and also suggested divvying up the walkways.

“I think this needs to be elevated to make sure all of the county commissioners are aware of the situation,” he said. “The issue has gotten worse with COVID-19. The passageway is blocked – you can’t keep a 6-foot social distance. We need to get this solved.”

During its discussion, the CCP questioned the logistics of dividing up the walkways between fishermen and pedestrians and what new safety concerns might arise from people then having to cross the road.

A motion was made to draft a formal letter and resolution to send to all of the commissioners requesting that they prohibit fishing from the bridge, with the information to include the reason behind the action, the community’s concerns and photographs of problems on the bridge as evidence.

The motion died in a 5-6 vote.

A second motion consisted of all of the first one, along with the panel including for the county commissioners that it is also open to dividing up the two walkways if it can be done safety.

The motion passed in a unanimous 11-0 vote.

WASTEWATER COMMITTEE

Panel Member and Wastewater Committee Chair Jay Brown reported that he received an estimate of $200,000 as the possible cost for a comprehensive engineering study on installing a sewer system.

“We obviously, as a panel, can’t raise that type of money,” he said.

Brown questioned if the CCP should begin advocating to Lee County for it to proceed with the engineering and design study, funded by county dollars, for a central sewer system. He added that he drafted a letter on behalf of the panel that voices support for moving forward with such a study.

Secretary Rene Miville described the letter as well written, informative and logical. However, he suggested that the CCP include some recommended firms to conduct the study and note its top pick.

After some discussion, the panel directed Brown to send the letter to Lee County Public Utilities Director Pamela Keyes, plus include that it is open to being involved in the selection process.

Brown also reported that he reached out to the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation on determining the impact of septic systems on water quality and that officials mentioned they have a research proposal. As of the meeting, the costs of the proposal had not been shared with him.

SEA LEVEL RISE COMMITTEE

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

She reported that consultant Dr. Cheryl Hapke, with Coastal Science Solutions, completed the Vulnerability Assessment report based on 1-, 2-, 4- and 7-foot sea-level rise scenarios, which the committee reviewed. It looked at how each would impact the island and the areas of weakness.

“We are not up to solutions yet,” Laird said.

The committee will present the process and results, including the maps with inundation, at the panel meeting in June. It will then prioritize the list of vulnerabilities and work on adaptation strategies.

She explained that answers are being sought to questions like: under what conditions can mangroves keep up with sea-level rise, and what is the impact on ground water levels when sea-level rises?

“So we’re going to find out more on those,” Laird said.

Presentations and dialogue with the community is expected to start in the fall.

She also gave an update on the “Development of a Sanibel-Captiva Adaptation Plan Utilizing a Decision Support Framework” proposal, submitted in partnership with Sanibel and the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for $215,000 in funding.

“This would be an integrated plan for both Sanibel and Captiva,” Laird said.

She reported that they have been invited to submit their full collaborative proposal in June.

“The whole team is excited about this,” Laird said.

If approved, the funds would be awarded in February or March. She noted that partnering with the SCCF and city on the proposal helps to lend more credibility to the Sea Level Rise Committee.

IN OTHER NEWS

– In light of COVID-19, the panel was presented with some options for cutting expenses in order to maintain its operational budget. After some discussion, it decided to stay conscious of its revenue and expenses through regular updates and be as frugal as possible but to continue on with the status quo.

– Treasurer and Golf Cart Safety Committee Chair Antje Baumgarten reported that the group is working with the rental companies to update their agreements and rules to better educate renters. It also came up with standards for potential implementation, which will be shared at the June meeting.

The committee is also considering the installation of signs on the ‘Tween Waters stretch.

“To make sure the car drivers and cart drivers know how to behave,” she said. “So that there’s no confusion, and we can be preventive about any accidents.”

– The panel directed Administrator Ken Gooderham to draft a proposal for hiring a consultant to contact and encourage property owners to support the creation of a MSTU for iguana control.

On the topic of iguanas, Panel Member John Jensen reported that AAA Wildlife Trapping and Removal Services has removed 252 so far this year, most along Captiva Drive and in South Seas Island Resort.

– Mintz reported that Johnson Engineering is drafting right-of-way letters for related property owners to sign that will allow for the construction of the sidewalk from Andy Rosse Lane to the post office.

– Mintz reported that Lee County staff is reviewing the panel’s suggested Code amendments.

“They’re working on it,” he said. “We’re waiting to hear from the county.”