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CEPD approves up to $150K for new position at SCCF

By TIFFANY REPECKI / trepecki@breezenewspapers.com - | Mar 2, 2021

The Captiva Erosion Prevention District’s commissioners recently approved up to $150,000 over two years for the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation to create and hire a sea level rise captain.

At a special meeting on Feb. 19, Chairman Rene Miville, Vice Chair John Silvia and Treasurer Dick Pyle voted 3-0 to fund the SLR “captain” position in the amount of up to $75,000 in year one and up to $75,000 in year two. Secretary Harry Kaiser and Commissioner Mike Mullins had excused absences.

Prior to the vote, SCCF Chief Executive Officer Ryan Orgera provided a presentation outlining the reasons for creating the proposed job, the CEPD’s role and requested funds, and duties of the position.

He explained that the need or problem that the job would be solving is that there are many entities working toward resilience on the islands and in the region, including itself, the CEPD, Captiva Community Panel, city of Sanibel, Florida Gulf Coast University, University of Florida and more.

“Capacity is such that these various efforts lack a central force to drive efforts in tandem,” Orgera shared via the presentation. “There is a lot of important and positive work occurring; however, because of limited capacity for coordination, these efforts run the risk of diminished impact.”

He noted that SCCF is in its 54th year of conservation on the islands and regionally, that promoting science-based solutions is where the organization excels, and that it has a full-time staff of 35 with 10-15 seasonal staffers, including a science-research group with scientific publications-grants awarded.

“SCCF is moving toward major focus on sea level rise resilience,” Orgera reported.

Orgera continued that the SCCF was seeking $75,000 from the CEPD to hire a sea level rise senior staff member to coordinate and help lead Captiva, on behalf and in conjunction with the CEPD, on sea level rise planning and projects. The CEPD funds would represent about 70 percent of the total cost for the new position and the SCCF would raise private funds in the first year to make up the remainder.

Year two plans would include asking for funding from the Sanibel City Council, according to the presentation shared. The SCCF also requested a two-year commitment from the CEPD to provide some stability for the new employee. Depending on other funding, the year two request may be reduced.

Orgera shared that during any year where the CEPD is the majority funder, the position would be “Captiva-centered.” The CEPD’s executive director would have “an important role in the direction and workflow.” However, the employee would be “completely employed and managed” by the SCCF.

He outlined the qualities of the ideal candidate as: a Master’s degree required, Ph.D. preferred in climate-science field; outstanding outreach abilities; deep knowledge of scientific literature on coastal resilience; and proven ability to acquire external funding (grants).

Miville shared that Orgera had spoken to him about the idea prior to presenting it.

“This is a proposal where Ryan will be tasked with finding a person, an individual, who will live, work and breathe and do all the things necessary to create a sea level rise project that creates protection for Captiva and Sanibel,” he said.

After the presentation and before the vote, some commissioners asked follow-up question on the position’s work being focused on Captiva. One noted that the role should be scientific, not political.

SEA TURTLE NEST MONITORING, RELOCATION

Also during the meeting, the commission approved a resolution that outlined a proposal it had discussed at its Feb. 8 monthly meeting and voiced support for. It voted 3-0 for an agreement with the SCCF for its sea turtle monitoring and nest relocation for a not-to-exceed amount of $176,700.

If the CEPD moves forward with its upcoming beach renourishment project during sea turtle nesting season, it will be required by state and federal guidelines to ensure nest monitoring and relocation.

At the Feb. 8 meeting, Orgera provided the commission with an overview of what the SCCF will charge the CEPD for its staffers to monitor and relocate sea turtle nests within the project area.

Orgera reported that the maximum cost to the CEPD for the work will be $176,700, which covers $2,000 for technician training, $56,700 for 18 weeks of daily monitoring, $114,00 for up to 190 “peak” nest relocations (April 15 to July 31), and $4,000 for up to 10 “off-peak” ones (Aug. 1 to Oct. 31).

He continued that should the project occupy at least 45 days of peak sea turtle nesting season, the minimum pricing in order to carry out the state and federal requirements would be $120,000.

RESEARCH PROPOSAL

Also at the meeting, the commission approved a resolution that outlined another proposal it had discussed at its Feb. 8 monthly meeting and voiced support for. It voted 3-0 to provide the SCCF with a grant not-to-exceed $45,000 for turtle research to be done in conjunction with the renourishment.

During the Feb. 8 meeting, Coastal Wildlife Director Kelly Sloan spoke about proposed sea turtle research that the SCCF would like to conduct in conjunction with the upcoming CEPD project.

She explained that the hatch success documented on Captiva has averaged 53 percent — a range of 40.2 percent to 73.5 percent — over the last 10 years, after nests subjected to predation and other losses are removed. Sea turtle nests laid on non-nourished stretches of Sanibel had an average hatch success of 69 percent using the same criteria, suggesting that Captiva provides less suitable nesting habitat.

“We’re proposing a project to evaluate the low sea turtle nesting,” Sloan said at the time.

The four objectives would be: characterize the physical properties of sand — color, size, bulk density and compaction — on renourished and natural stretches of beach on Sanibel and Captiva; evaluate how the variables influence groundwater flow, temperature and moisture inside the nest cavity; characterize the effects of elevation, beach slope and width on nesting success on Sanibel and Captiva.; and evaluate how the covariates impact embryonic development, nest fate and hatching/emergence success.

The SCCF had estimated that the equipment and laboratory analysis services would cost about $65,000 for the project. It was seeking $45,000 from the CEPD, with SCCF to pay for the remaining $20,000.