Hats off to the Naples City Council!
Given the option of protecting the environment or increasing powerboat traffic, it chose the environment.
At a recent workshop, the council backed away from a proposal to replace culverts under Seagate Drive with a bridge, a move that would effectively connect Clam Bay with Moorings Bay. A request for city funds to conduct a feasibility study was turned down.
What’s this all about? The proposal was an attempt by a group called the Moorings Bay Citizens Advisory Committee to get Seagate powerboats to the Gulf of Mexico through Doctors Pass.
Earlier attempts to go through Clam Pass failed. That would have required extensive dredging of Outer Clam Bay, part of a Natural Resources Protection Area.
With entry to the north blocked, Seagate looked south. Replacing the culverts with a bridge would connect the bays and open the way to Doctors Pass.
But connecting the bays carries with it a very real risk: Clam Bay could be “dewatered.”
Draining water from Clam Bay would jeopardize the mangroves and put pressure on Clam Pass, which closed twice in the past year. The ecological risk would be enormous.
A recent presentation by Mike Bauer, Naples’ natural resource manager, showed the net tidal exchange through the existing culverts to be nearly 6-to-1 from Clam Bay to Moorings Bay. That confirmed earlier reports.
What about a larger opening? Based on a modeling study, coastal engineer Mohamed Dabees reported, “(A) larger hydraulic connection between the two systems would cause diverting part of the tidal prism of Outer Clam Bay through Venetian (Moorings) Bay and Doctors Pass instead of flowing through Clam Pass.”
Tidal flow charts underscored the risk.
Armed with this information, Pelican Bay opposed the plan. Tom Cravens, chair of the Pelican Bay Services Division (PBSD) board, wrote to the City Council expressing concern. Susan O’Brien, chair of the PBSD Clam Bay Committee, warned of possible dewatering.
Most felt the environmental risk far outweighed the benefit of getting a few more powerboats to the Gulf.
But some from Seagate wanted to push ahead. David Buser, president of the Seagate Property Owners Association, urged the city to take action. He was quoted by the Naples Daily News as saying the bridge project “ ... lies within the city limits and the jurisdiction of the Naples City Council.”
It’s not that simple. Clam Bay is county property. You can be sure the Collier County commissioners would have something to say about a project that jeopardized Clam Bay.
But it hasn’t come to that. At least not yet. For the moment, the project is on hold.
And for that we thank Mayor John Sorey and City Council. We owe you one!