This is a response to Eileen Ward’s guest commentary on mangrove restoration along SR 92 published on June 24.
Ms. Ward is absolutely incorrect in her interpretation of the scientific and engineering data that three trained professionals (one Professional Engineer and two Certified Professional Wetland Scientists) with over 100 person-years of experience in these areas, have interpreted in order to design the proposed mangrove restoration. If anything, Ms. Ward’s proposal would, if implemented without the full project design likely result in more dead mangroves. Why is this? Ms. Ward has no formal training in engineering, hydrology, marine biology or mangrove science. She is simply not qualified to critique the work of these three professionals, and the endorsement of our proposal for restoration by dozens of other professionals and scientists with the water management district, Department of Environmental Protection, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the professional staff of the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. Ms. Ward may be qualified to comment on chinch bugs and lawn care, but not on mangrove restoration.
Why in fact would the project team stick there necks out and jeopardize their professional careers on some wildly expensive plan that Ms. Ward contends is over designed? Money? Not likely. I am donating for free 90 percent of my time, even paying my own unreimbursed travel expenses, and the other professionals are donating 50 percent of their time. If I owned a concrete pipe company or a construction company, there might be reason for concern. I own neither. That is where the bulk of the grant funding we are seeking, along with the kind donations from local citizens, will go. Construction of the needed improvements to tidal flow and the required permit condition monitoring. No body is getting rich off this project, so why wouldn’t we accept Ms. Ward’s cheaper option for restoration? It is quite simple. It won’t work, and will likely kill more mangroves as more water is allowed in on the tides, but no improvement to water moving OUT would happen. The dead mangroves along SR 92 died due to excess flooding. They drowned! What is needed is improved tidal exchange which is what our ultimate plan would provide. Not only would the mangroves come back, but fish and wildlife would return to now dead habitat.
Ms. Ward has been given ample opportunity to provide her review, comment and opinions. The proof is now in the pudding. We expect all our permits by September of this year, and construction on the first phase of the project at Steven’s Landing will begin in February 2012. We invite all the residents of Marco Island to drive out and review the results. We are going to restore those mangroves and more, and I don’t think the chinch bugs are going to be a problem.
Thank you for all your support to date.
Roy R. “Robin” Lewis III, Certified Professional Wetland Scientist
President, Coastal Resources Group, Inc., a 501(c)(3) Federally recognized not-for-profit scientific and educational organization
Salt Springs, Florida