‘Current’ issues: Hideaway Tax District deals with Irma, attorneys, and shifting sands
In their shorts and Hideaway Beach polo shirts, they don’t look like the classic image of warriors.
But the members of the Hideaway Beach Special Tax District are locked in an unending struggle with an implacable foe, fighting to keep the “beach” in Hideaway Beach, against an ocean that relentlessly chips away at the gated golf course community on the northern tip of Marco Island.
The board met Wednesday afternoon in the Niles Conference Room at City Hall, dealing with the “current” issues of how the Gulf of Mexico, tides and currents move sand, augmenting or depleting the shoreline. Particular topics included storm-water runoff over the beach, renourishing the beach to help protect the T-groins that in turn protect the beach sand, dealing with the Collier Creek erosion, and selecting a new attorney for the tax district.
After interviewing candidates including Clay Brooker of Naples’ Cheffy & Passidomo law firm, a graduate of Princeton and the University of Florida school of law, the board unanimously chose Marco Island lawyer Craig Woodward as their “district attorney,” a nearly lifelong Marco resident who functions as the island’s unofficial historian, and probably knows as much or more about island land use issues as anyone living.
“Craig will be a marvelous addition for us,” said district board chairman Dick Freeman. The board called on consultant Michael Poff of Coastal Engineering to deal with questions that have been raised about stormwater runoff across the beach into the Gulf.
“The city is under an edict from the EPA not to discharge water into the Gulf of Mexico,” said Marco Island Public Works Director Tim Pinter, who acts as staff liaison to the Hideaway tax board. When a member mentioned that in Naples, there are storm-water drains into the Gulf, similar to what caused the concern at Hideaway, Pinter responded “Naples is having to remove those cross-beach discharges.”
There is a rock-lined culvert at Hideaway, dry now, that runs from a lake on the Hideaway golf course to the beach. After Irma, with over a foot of rain, it overflowed into the Gulf, which was when an inspector from the state DEP, or Dept. of Environmental Protection, flagged it to the city’s and the board’s attention, said Poff.
“He noticed the discharge at the T-groin, and said, ‘what are you going to do about it?’” Poff recommended raising the berm of sand at the beach by approximately one half foot.
Unlike many of the Hideaway tax district meetings, Wednesday’s session drew a roomful of attendees, including Collier County Coastal Advisory Committee vice chair Debbie Roddy, a Marco Island resident, and Ben Farnsworth, president of the Ville de Marco West condominium association. Farnsworth, while repeatedly adding the disclaimer “I’m no engineer,” advocated for opening up the Collier Creek inlet at the northern side, opposite where the entire point of land vanished in the storm, swept away by Irma’s waves and wind. Multistory condo buildings that were surrounded by dry land now have open water underneath, although the pilings driven deep beneath the structures protect them from collapsing into the waterway.
Farnsworth engaged in a back and forth with Mohamed Dabees, PhD, of Humiston & Moore Engineering, another of the tax district’s consultants, who is an engineer, about how sand moves through an inlet.
Whereas the Collier Creek inlet is open and widening, the reverse is true of the inlet into the Tigertail Beach lagoon at the opposite end of Hideaway Beach. Hurricane Irma added more to the point of the Sand Dollar Island spit, nearly closing the lagoon, while temporarily opening several cuts through it to the Gulf.
“Is there anything we can do to help Tigertail?” asked Freeman, noting that it is also very much in Hideaway’s interests to keep the water in the lagoon flowing freely and not stagnant. Poff pointed out that it is much easier to obtain permitting for renourishment rather than “breaching,” or opening cuts where none currently exist.
“With your 15-year permit, you can move sand from accreting areas to eroding areas, and once every four years, you can renourish any area of the beach – you cannot breach,” said Poff.
The board also heard from another consultant, Nancy Richie, Marco Island’s longtime environmental specialist, on the health of the bird populations.
The board will meet again at City Hall on March 22, with an additional meeting if needed tentatively scheduled for April 11.