NAPLES — A big dig is underway at boaters’ main access point to Naples Bay from the Gulf of Mexico.
Crews have started dredging 61,000 cubic yards of sand out of Gordon Pass — enough to cover almost 30 football fields with a foot of sand — to deepen the channel and remove part of a shoal.
A West Pam Beach-based joint venture between Caldwell Marine and Palm Beach Marine has finished about 20 percent of the job and has until the end of March to finish, said Milan Mora, project manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Money from last year’s federal economic stimulus package is paying for the dredging, which will cost $880,000 plus $150,000 for design, engineering and contract administration, Mora said.
The sand is being pumped onto the northern end of Keewaydin Island, following the natural path of drifting sand along the Naples coast.
The project will be good for the beach and good for boaters, Marine Industries Association of Collier County President Frank Perrucci said.
“I think it’s always good to have deeper water wherever you can,” he said.
He said the shoal at the northern side of the pass has been growing, crowding boaters and effectively moving the channel slightly south.
The work, though, has at least one charter fishing boat captain scratching his head.
Only a handful of boats that come into Naples Bay only a few times a year need the pass to be dredged any deeper, Capt. Eric Alexander said.
He questions why the federal government would spend money to deepen the pass.
“I don’t see the sense in it when it isn’t necessary,” Alexander said.
Mora compared the job to road maintenance and said the pass is being dredged to the depth that Congress authorized years ago.
“You wouldn’t want to see I-75 with potholes,” he said.
The dredging is deepening the approach to the pass to 12 feet and inside the pass to 10 feet.
A second phase of the dredging project, planned for 2011, would dredge the federal channel from the pass to the City Dock to a depth of 10 feet, Mora said.
Current depths at the pass run between 7 and 8 feet and 6 feet over the shoal; the channel is between 8 and 9 feet deep, Mora said.
He said muck from the channel dredging, budgeted to cost $2.5 million, will have to be dried out at a site to be determined and then taken to the landfill.
Congress has yet to appropriate money for the second phase, Mora said.
Connect with Eric Staats at www.naplesnews.com/staff/eric_staats/