MARCO ISLAND — Marco’s Beach Advisory Committee covered a lot of sand in their meeting on Wednesday. After welcoming new member Diane Hoover to her first meeting, they got down to a lengthy slate of beach-related business.
The group heard from Collier County’s Coastal Zone Director Gary McAlpin, on the five Marco projects his department currently has in the works. The South Beach Renourishment Project, in conjunction with the dredging of Caxambas Pass, is proceeding night and day, with completion anticipated, and in fact required, before the official beginning of sea turtle nesting season on May 1, he told the committee.
“We’re pumping sand right now,” said McAlpin, building up 2,700 lineal feet of the beach while attempting to provide five to 10 feet of depth in Caxambas Pass. No Marco Island ad valorem tax dollars will go to pay the $637,000 cost, as the renourishment is funded by Tourist Development money.
City councilor Larry Sacher, listening in the audience and just having an audience is noteworthy for the Beach Advisory meetings noted the shallow water heading from Caxambas Pass toward Goodland, and asked if there is any consideration of dredging there. That area, responded McAlpin, is a designated bird sanctuary, and very difficult to get permits to dredge.
“The permit for Caxambas Pass cost $300,000” in engineering and studies, he said. The county is also rebuilding five erosion control structures, at a cost of $740,000, laser grading the beach to eliminate the “bird baths” or tidal pools, from Sand Dollar Island to the beach adjacent to the Marriott Hotel. Resident manager Mike Tighe from the Marriott was on hand, concerned that the work would impact hotel guests.
McAlpin said, “we haven’t had believe it or not a lot of complaints about noise at night” on the addition of sand. He detailed how the workers would attempt to minimize the disturbance, on the grading as well as the renourishment project. The laser grading, he said, presented the tightest timetable to beat the May 1 deadline.
“We’re paying $1,000 an acre for that,” he said, adding that there are still places in this country where for that price, you could buy the land. McAlpin confirmed the county would be contributing $350,000 as its “proportionate share” for erosion control structures, or groins, at Hideaway Beach, with the balance of the funds coming from the Hideaway Beach special taxing district.
At Tigertail Beach, he reported the new boardwalks are complete, and the bathroom addition is being put out to bid, with completion expected before the end of the year.
After hearing from the county, it was the city’s turn, in the person of environmental specialist Nancy Richie. She reported on beach water quality, and red tide status, with the good news being that Marco Island is not suffering from red tide, despite the concentrations in Charlotte and Lee County waters to the north.
Fecal coliform and e. coli levels in Marco’s ground water are also in good shape, unless you live on Hollyhock Court. There, levels came in at 73 per 100 mils, versus one to three per 100 mils elsewhere on the island. While even the higher levels on Hollyhock are within state standards, said Richie, that area has a history of higher levels of contamination.
The Hideaway Beach project, she told the committee, is starting this week, but is not constrained by the turtle nesting season. Sea turtle monitor Mary Nelson, with possible backup, will be on the beach every day, and shorebird monitoring will be provided by David Addison of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.
Richie told the committee that bird nesting signs would be helpful, to try to keep people from disturbing bird parents, which on the beach must often cool, not warm their eggs. “No live shelling” signs are ready to go, awaiting budget approval, she said.
The group reviewed beach cleanup schedules and field trips to see the beaches in question, and finished up the meeting with a brainstorming session on goal setting. Chairperson Roddy played facilitator, standing at the easel with a marker, and scrawling down a series of short term, long term, and ongoing goals how to divide them up was a rather large part of the conversation. These will be refined further.
People wanting to get hands-on and do their part to help the beach is invited to show up at Tigertail Beach Saturday, April 13 for the regular quarterly cleanup. The Beach Advisory Committee meets again on April 17.