Collier County plans to move ahead with only part of an emergency beach restoration project for now, the county’s Coastal Zone Management Director Gary McAlpin said Wednesday.
Stormy winter weather caused severe erosion on stretches of beach in North Park Shore and south of Doctors Pass, raising worries about a lack of a buffer against what forecasters are predicting will be an active hurricane season this summer.
A push to add some 40,000 cubic yards of sand to the beaches has been slowed, though, by a requirement that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service review the project for impacts to nesting sea turtles.
Rather than wait for a federal sign-off for the larger project, the county wants to move ahead with a smaller project that is authorized under the county’s existing beach restoration permits and so can proceed without additional environmental reviews.
McAlpin said he spoke with the Fish and Wildlife Service this week about how quickly it could finish the review of the larger project.
“I didn’t get any good feelings out of FWS on this,” he said.
The smaller project would add between 2,000 and 3,000 cubic yards of sand along about a 1,000-foot stretch of beach south of Doctors Pass.
McAlpin said county officials plan to meet at the beach Friday morning with contractors and condominium residents to begin planning the details.
Work could be underway in a matter of weeks and be finished by mid-July, before the peak of hurricane season, McAlpin said.
The larger project, which would add more sand south of Doctors Pass and to a stretch of beach in North Park Shore south of the Seagate beach access, would start later this summer after permits are in place and could take four to six weeks to finish, he said.
Though a two-phase project will get at least some sand on the beach more quickly, it also could be more expensive than doing all the work at once.
The project involves trucking in sand from an inland pit and using conveyor belts and heavy equipment to spread the sand on the beach.
McAlpin said there are no sea turtle nests within the area where sand would be added south of Doctors Pass for the smaller project.
If a sea turtle nest is found in the project area, crews would have to stay 10 feet away from it, he said.
The larger project, estimated to cost $1.5 million, was to be paid for with tourist tax revenues.
The cost was based on using sand from a mine in Central Florida, but county officials might now use sand from an Immokalee mine.
Stewart Mining Industries says its sand is compatible with the sand on Naples beach, but the sand still needs approval from the state Department of Environmental Protection.
“I think they’ll be happy with it,” said mine owner Nick Stewart.
Connect with Eric Staats at www.naplesnews.com/staff/eric_staats/.