MARATHON KEY — Marco Island’s Waterways Advisory Committee cracked the books at their meeting Thursday morning, reviewing the city’s committee handbook, which contains instructions for all of Marco’s advisory boards, and working to finalize their own baby, the seawall owner’s manual. This will give guidance and set limits for waterfront property owners.
Marco is honeycombed with seawalls, many at or near the end of their useful life, and 50 miles of the structures are likely to fail within the next 10 years, necessitating vital and costly repair, which makes the issue one of burning importance for many. Of course, government wheels tend to grind slowly, and the committee has been “finalizing” the manual for months, with each batch of revisions and strike-throughs needing to come back for approval and perhaps further revision.
Community Services Director Tim Pinter, staff liaison to the WAC, led the group through the most recent changes.
“We don’t inspect seawalls anymore,” he said. “It’s a good seawall or a bad seawall, and Code Enforcement can cite a property owner for a failed seawall.” The discussion got into “deadmen,” aka tieback rods, and the difference between a “whale” and a “whaler” in construction terms, as well as just how far a seawall can protrude into the adjacent canal or waterway.
WAC member Jim Timmerman urged that rather than detail all the technical specifications and construction standards, the manual and associated ordinance include by reference nationally accepted standards.
“It should say, ‘please refer to current state and Federal regulations,’ including the ASTM technical benchmarks and the Miami-Dade building code, accepted as a Florida standard, he said. Since the requirements are dynamic and changing, this would keep Marco from having to change its standards every time the underlying regulations are amended, he said. Pinter said city staff recommends spelling out the allowed methods and uses, saying “we are more restrictive than the state and Federal requirements.”
Timmerman was concerned, he said, that Marco’s code and governmental review structure is inhibiting the introduction of “new technology,” a phrase he used repeatedly during the meeting. One example was the seawall replacement invented by Marco resident and engineer Franklin Lacy. A letter from Lacy, who could not be present at the meeting, was presented to staff and WAC members by Islander Doug Nettles, speaking on his behalf.
The Waterways Committee now has two seawall contractors as members, Brian Gilmore and DJ Ricci, so their technical expertise informs the discussions and includes the perspective of the people who have to do the work, as well as the homeowners who do not want to be disturbed as long as it is somebody else’s seawall being replaced. Ricci’s firm, Marco Marine Construction, handled the recent installation of a seawall using Lacy’s method on a test basis. The new system shows promise, said Ricci, although as with any “new technology” there is trial and error and a learning curve, and there are many local conditions for which it is not suitable.
Pinter said he would meet with the city manager and Nancy Richie, Marco Island’s Environmental Specialist. Timmerman asked to be included in the meeting. Richie was scheduled to give a presentation on water quality to the WAC, but was unable to attend. With all the material to go over, waterways chairman Richard Shanahan struggled to keep his colleagues on task, focused and plowing forward through the pages of the seawall manual.
When it is finalized by the committee which should be soon, really, any month now the manual will go to the City Council for review before being issued in official form. The WAC’s next meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m., July 24, in council chambers, and like last week’s meeting, will be televised live and available afterward from the city’s website.