Straight to the point: Wiggins Pass project back on track

The Pelican Bay Yacht Club water taxi makes it's way around a sand bar and a fisherman in Wiggins Pass Wednesday after dropping passengers at the beach.  The current channel brings boats to within feet of the shoreline on their way in and out of the gulf but Collier County commissioners voted to restart the project to straighten the channel and seek a permit from the Department of Environmental Protection.  Michel Fortier/Staff

Photo by MICHEL FORTIER // Buy this photo

The Pelican Bay Yacht Club water taxi makes it's way around a sand bar and a fisherman in Wiggins Pass Wednesday after dropping passengers at the beach. The current channel brings boats to within feet of the shoreline on their way in and out of the gulf but Collier County commissioners voted to restart the project to straighten the channel and seek a permit from the Department of Environmental Protection. Michel Fortier/Staff

— A project to straighten the channel at Wiggins Pass is back on track after a vote by Collier County commissioners Tuesday.

Commissioners voted 5-0 to spend up to $177,000 for engineers to continue work to get a permit for the job from the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The channel-straightening job is intended to stop erosion at Barefoot Beach, a preserve on the north side of the existing S-channel, and to keep the pass free of sand longer.

Last month, commissioners voted against spending the money amid questions about whether the DEP would issue a permit and whether the project would work.

Since then, the DEP has written a letter to the county, saying it would issue a permit as long as the county met certain conditions.

“We’re very happy about it,” Estuary Conservation Association President Joe Moreland said. “It’s long been an issue that’s been in the oven. Now it’s out.”

Despite the vote, some commissioners remain wary of the project, which could cost up to $5 million.

Commissioner Georgia Hiller called for a peer review of whether the project would achieve the goal of extending the time between dredgings, something DEP reviewers have expressed doubt about.

“They’re wrong,” Commissioner Tom Henning said.

Henning said he did not want to foreclose the county’s options to build jetties or groins at Wiggins Pass to keep sand from eroding into the pass.

County planners have told commissioners it would be nearly impossible to get permits for such a project because of environmental concerns.

“It’s stupid bureaucracy that wastes a lot of taxpayer dollars,” Commission Chairman Fred Coyle said.

Connect with Eric Staats at www.naplesnews.com/staff/eric_staats

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