Hideaway Beach dredging begins, may affect turtles

Sue Keller
suekeller44@gmail.com

Just as loggerhead sea turtle and the least tern nesting season begins, truckloads of pipe have began rolling onto Hideaway Beach for a two-and-a-half month dredging project to move 40,000 cubic yards of sand from the end of Sand Dollar Island as part of the 2016 Hideaway erosion project.

Tim Reese, left, and Jamie Johnson with Gator Construction set up dredging equipment at Hideaway Beach.

Under the plan, Hideaway Beach will receive 10,000 cubic yards of sand dredged from the end of Sand Dollar Island to replenish both the north and south ends of the beach.

Funding for the project will come from the available revenue generated the Hideaway Beach Tax District, city officials said.

The second phase is to pump 30,000 cubic yards of sand by underwater pipe to Tigertail Beach to eliminate pooling of water during the rainy season. After the pipe is fused together and fitted with weights, it will be taken by barge, where it will be taken offshore of Sand Dollar and released under the water.

The fill will start at the South Seas Condominiums and extend to Residents’ Beach. Bulldozers will move the sand from 500 feet where it will be dumped onshore to the low-lying areas.


“We will have to deal with everything as it comes,” said Nelson. “They are concerned about turtle nesting season, but didn’t want to do the project during tourist season.”Sea turtle monitor Mary Nelson, often referred to as the Turtle Lady, attended a meeting with Coastal Engineering Consultants. She said she doesn’t know now how the 24/7 dredging project with all the lights and noise will affect the loggerhead sea turtle season that opened May 1.

Keith Ayres, the project supervisor for Gator Dredging, has been doing this kind of work for 25 years. He believes the biggest obstacle for this project is the shorebirds and the sea turtles.

Workers move in pipe as the Hideaway dredging project begins.

“But we work around them and do everything by the book,” said Ayres. “It slows us down a bit, but it’s part of the job.”

Jean Hall, a volunteer with the Collier County Shorebird Stewardship Program, is concerned.

Workmen unload pipe and other heavy equipment at the dredging site on Hideaway Beach.

“Obviously I worry about any and all disturbance of our delicate shorebird colony,” said Hall. “The least terns are a seriously imperiled species. The dredging restoration at this venerable nesting time concerns me.”

Last year, the least tern colony completely failed because of crow predation, she said.

There will be plenty of concerned eyes on the project. Former city environmental specialist Nancy Richie is making daily reports on all possible wildlife disturbances from the dredging.

Adam DiNuovo, shorebird biologist for Audubon, will walk Sand Dollar several days a week.

“That helps me sleep better at night,” said Hall.