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Sea Level Rise Committee presents proposal before CEPD

By TIFFANY REPECKI / trepecki@breezenewspapers.com - | Mar 9, 2021

The Captiva Erosion Prevention District’s commission recently heard from the Captiva Community Panel’s Sea Level Rise Committee about a funds request to continue with its adaption planning.

At a CEPD workshop on March 4, members of the panel’s SLR Committee presented the district commissioners with an Adaptation Alternatives Proposal prepared by its consultant, Cheryl Hapke of Integral Consulting, along with a request for the CEPD to partially fund or fund the $34,400 cost.

Panel Member and SLR Committee Chair Linda Laird kicked off the presentation by providing background on Hapke and her firm and an overview of their collaborative work done to date.

“We’ve been doing this for the last two years,” she said of working with Integral.

“To date we’ve spent no money on this, except for on administrative support,” Laird added.

She continued that the committee has tried to acquire grant funds to continue with what has been pro bono work on the firm’s part so far, even partnering with Sanibel and others in one case, but to no avail.

“We’ve come to the point where we do need money to do adaptation planning,” Laird said.

Hapke next stepped in to provide the CEPD commission with a more detailed presentation on the Captiva coastal resiliency and adaptation planning that Integral and the committee have done, including the completion of an initial vulnerability assessment that was shared at a November public forum.

She discussed five focus areas selected for adaptation strategies, which the CCP has reviewed and supports, along with possible alternatives like living shoreline restorations and improvements, fill and seawalls. The proposal would cover modeling and analysis to determine the effectiveness of them.

Laird wrapped up the presentation by outlining the proposal’s primary deliverables as: a technical memorandum with alternative designs and recommendations for best options and ranked alternatives for each area; presentations to the panel and community-at-large; and continued participation in monthly SLR Committee calls.

“We very much would like additional funding for this or funding for this from the CEPD,” she said, speaking as the committee chair and member of the CCP. “We would like your support on this.”

“I think it’s a modest $34,000,” Laird added.

During the following discussion, CEPD Commissioner Mike Mullins questioned if the firm would provide details on other alternatives for the areas, outside of the examples covered in the presentation.

“There’s different types of adaptation strategies. There’s a lot of designs to draw from,” Hapke said, adding that Integral would take those into account, along with the new and most innovative ones.

Mullins also asked about permitting and construction of the floated alternatives.

“We are not a coastal engineering company. We do not do construction,” Hapke said, adding that an engineering firm would be required, but the strategies it proposes would be able to be permitted.

CEPD Treasurer Dick Pyle pointed out the commission’s decision less than two weeks earlier to allocate up to $150,000 over two years to the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation for it to create a sea level rise captain position. The SCCF staffer will coordinate and lead Captiva on planning.

He questioned what input has come from the SCCF and voiced concern about duplicating work.

Panel President and SLR Committee Member Jay Brown explained that he had spoken with SCCF Chief Executive Officer Ryan Orgera only a few days before. He reported that Orgera intends to have the new captain join the committee, and the SCCF could provide financial support for the proposal.

“Ryan is very supportive of this study,” Brown said of the proposal from Integral.

“He thinks this is foundational work that needs to be done,” he added.

CEPD Chairman Rene Miville reported that he also spoke recently with Orgera, and that he was informed the ad for the position has gone out and it may only take three to six weeks to fill it.

“This might be redundant,” he said. “We’re hiring someone right now. Their job is to tell us what are the first steps. We would be stepping on their feet if we said, ‘Oh, by the way, here is your study.'”

Miville suggested waiting for the captain to be hired and then decide what to do.

“I don’t understand what the rush is,” he said of approving the funds request. “What we want to do is do it right and do it efficiently. I don’t know why we can’t wait a month and see where we stand.”

Brown reported that the communications he has had with Orgera do not match up with those Miville had and that it is going to take longer to get the new employee up to speed and making decisions.

“He’s told me things completely different than what you’re understanding,” he said.

Brown added that he believed it would three to six months before the employee could contribute.

“You and I are hearing different things from him,” he said, suggesting that Orgera be asked to attend the CEPD’s regular monthly meeting — which was held on March 8 — to comment on the matter.

As part of the discussion, CEPD Executive Director Jennifer Nelson was asked for her input.

She explained that she believes the proposal from Integral and its work falls within the scope of the district, meaning that the commissioners could consider and approve the funding if they desired.

Nelson also reported that CEPD consultant APTIM Engineering submitted a proposal within the last two years that addresses sea level rise planning and also covers the permitting for the work. She continued that she and staff would suggest comparing the two proposals to see if there is any overlap.

“What I don’t want to do is waste resources,” Nelson said. “I just want to make sure we’re not duplicating efforts and make sure we’re making good use of our funds.”

Hapke shared that she was unaware APTIM had proposed something for the whole island.

“Integral is coming from this from a very scientific perspective,” she said referring to environmental and resource impacts, adding that an engineer in comparison may simply outline what it can build.

“I think this is a minimal ask for funding,” Hapke continued. “It’s not a million dollar project. It’s a small amount of money to keep this project going.”

She also noted Orgera’s involvement with the committee and opinion about the proposal.

“Ryan has not raised any of the concerns there would any type of conflict or overlap,” Hapke said.

Nelson recommended that the commission take a pause to allow staff the weekend to research and compare the proposals — Integral and APTIM — then present their findings at the March 8 meeting. The commissioners added that they would like Orgera to attend that meeting and offer his opinion.

At the close of the workshop, past Panel President and SLR Committee Member David Mintz explained that only a few years ago the CEPD wanted nothing to do with adaptation planning on the bayside for sea level rise. Because of this the panel formed the committee to address the issue.

“In the past, the CEPD’s legal position and administrative position was that their responsibility was limited solely to beach renourishment on the Gulf side,” he said, adding that he believed that the hope was one day the role would fold into the CEPD’s work. “I think where we are is right at that point.”

Mintz shared that it is reasonable for the commission to take the time to figure things out, but also confirmed that Orgera and even Sanibel staff are on the committee and have endorsed the study.