Marco Island Beach Advisory Committee hits the sand to survey two beach renourishment projects

On Tuesday, a frontend loader combines sand spewing from the dredge pipe to the left with existing sand as part of Collier County’s project to replenish sand on Marco Island’s south beach. The new sand is being dredged from Caxambas Pass. Cheryl Ferrara/Eagle Correspondent

On Tuesday, a frontend loader combines sand spewing from the dredge pipe to the left with existing sand as part of Collier County’s project to replenish sand on Marco Island’s south beach. The new sand is being dredged from Caxambas Pass. Cheryl Ferrara/Eagle Correspondent

— Two erosion control and sand replenishment projects on Marco Island’s beach are on schedule. Nancy Richie, city environmental specialist, delivered the report as she accompanied the Beach Advisory Committee Tuesday to review progress on the projects.

On south beach, the committee observed sand dredged from Caxambas Pass being deposited into an area across from the south beach entrance. An embankment separated a small lagoon, called the mixing zone, from the Gulf of Mexico.

In the lagoon a frontend loader incorporated newly deposited sand with beach material.

Richie told the committee the embankment allowed new deposits to be combined with existing sand without creating turbidity or cloudiness offshore. By combining the two substances, the 77,000 cubic yards of sand to be added between Cape Marco and the Somerset Condominium will take on characteristics of the existing beach.

Sand from Caxambas Pass is tested regularly every 100 feet during dredging to make sure it contains the proper amount of hash shell, Richie explained. Grain size and color also are compared to make sure materials match.

Sand replacement could be finished as early as May 7. Richie hoped the earlier completion would lessen fears surrounding the project overlapping turtle nesting season. The renourishment component of the project is permitted to continue until May 15, two weeks after the season begins.

Dredging will improve navigation in the pass, Richie said, but admitted the area is a shifting environment. Florida wildlife agencies do not plan to post the sandbar between Caxambas Pass and the Gulf as a bird nesting area this year, she said, because the sandbar has become too small to attract a large number of nesting species.

Laser grading of the beach should begin shortly.

“Grading removes high and low points that collect water and smoothes the sand to create a positive slope to the Gulf,” Richie said. The slope is sculpted to fall more gently and reduce wave action, helping the beach retain sand.

At Hideaway Beach, bulldozers had already created a roadway along the dunes. The road will allow heavy equipment to access the area where sand will be deposited.

The Hideaway project, funded primarily through special taxes paid by Hideaway residents, will cost around $1.6 million and create a wider buffer for condominiums there. It also will alleviate the need for a stopgap measure planned by the city in case of emergency.

“I wish my grandchildren could see this now,” said Paul Fernstrum, pointing to the new sand that stretched approximately 30 feet toward the Marco River. “They came out here with their pails and shovels when they visited, but the water was all the way up to the mangroves.”

Fernstrum lives in Hideaway’s 6000 building and walked out to talk to the committee. He is also a member of the Hideaway Beach Taxing District Board. He pointed to a pole in the river approximately 25 feet from the water’s edge and indicated sand would be replaced up to the marker.

“When I moved here, the building was 150 feet from the river with an additional 20-foot buffer,” Fernstrum told the committee. Although that distance will not be recreated, Fernstrum was pleased with the protection the current project offered.

As part of the process, Hideaway Beach secured a permit to replace sand as necessary for next 10 years, Richie told the committee.

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