MARCO ISLAND — Sand loss on the north end of Hideaway Beach isn’t natural. The Hideaway Beach Tax District Board and Marco Island city staff believe the cause may be manmade.
Boats are running too fast and too close to shore, they agreed.
Boaters moving through Big Marco Pass may be undoing what Hideaway residents paid $1.7 million dollars in 2013 to fix: erosion on Hideaway’s north beach. The beach was renourished using tax district funds and a $350,000 grant for T-groin construction from Collier County.
The city has a beach ordinance that controls what speeds must be observed close to beaches, Nancy Richie, the city’s environmental specialist, told the board.
In September 1998, the city passed an ordinance prohibiting vessels to exceed idle speed within 500 feet offshore from all sandy beaches. That distance was expanded to 750 feet in October 2008.
Looking for methods to inform boaters, the board turned to Roger Jacobsen, harbor master for the City of Naples.
A piling and sign warning boaters to slow down was placed in the water off the beach, but it has since disappeared.
Jacobsen said replacing the sign would be costly and tough to permit. He suggested “no wake” or “slow speed zone” buoys placed at intervals in the water along the beach.
Off the beach, the coastline bottom drops off steeply. If buoys were placed 500 feet offshore, they would be anchored around 35 feet deep. That drop-off may be the reason boaters move closer to the Hideaway Beach side of the pass.
Buoys are much easier to permit and maintain, Jacobsen told the board. Each is held in place by an anchor and chain with an underwater float the keeps the chain off the bottom. That reduces wear on the chain, Jacobsen explained.
He suggested the board consider purchasing eight buoys and placing them at 1000-foot intervals.
Jacobsen outlined the steps the board would have to take to permit the buoys. Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Service would need a request for permitting and would have 90 days to respond.
The U.S. Coast Guard would have to look at the project and approve it, and the Army Corps of Engineers would need to issue a letter agreeing to the permit.
Before any steps were taken, the board would need permission to proceed from Marco Island’s City Council, Tim Pinter, the city’s public works director, told the board. The city would become the petitioner in any permits issued within city limits.
The board discussed funding the permitting process and materials. As of Dec. 31, the taxing district had cash-on-hand of $573,456.
Jacobsen said the cost of buoys was relatively cheap but replacements were needed frequently. Some areas take in their buoys during Hurricane Season, he said.
The board discussed looking at all future funding it needs to cover. Erik Brechnitz, the board’s chairman, asked city staff to compile a list of ongoing expenses for shore monitoring and beach maintenance for the next four years.
At the next meeting, the board will discuss future budgets and possibly reducing the special tax assessment levied on the gated community’s residents. That meeting was set for 2 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 20, in City Hall’s first floor conference room.