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When the Marco Shores Alternative Water Project is complete, early next year, you won’t notice a thing different, even if you live in Marco Shores. And that’s the idea.

The $9 million project has been in the works for years, presented to City Council in March of 2015, with system design beginning in April 2016, said Jeff Poteet, general manager of the city’s water and sewer department.

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Basically, a pipeline project, the work involves upgrading the lines connecting Marco Shores, Hammock Bay and the Isles of Capri to the Marco Island system and connecting Marco Shores to water treated on Marco Island, as opposed to purchasing water from Collier County.

Much of the work to date has been along the 951 corridor off the island, as well as running lines 80-plus feet beneath the Marco River using high-tech drilling equipment. The off-island phase is nearly complete and in the next few weeks, lane closures will occur on Collier Boulevard on Marco Island near the Jolley Bridge as the lines are installed and pulled underneath the river.

Physical construction began last October, and the project is expected to wrap up by February. Originally, completion was anticipated this October, but necessary delays pushed it to early next year.

“There were some issues with unknown utility (gas) line locations and weather-related issues, but these were beyond the control of the contractor,” said Poteet. “Therefore, construction is on time and within the approved budget.”

With the lines being dug along State Road 951, flanked on both sides by wetlands, sensitive mangrove areas and open water, and the pipes carrying potable water, keeping the water quality pristine is of the first importance, and the state Department of Environmental Protection must sign off on the work and the purity of the water being delivered.

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“When we get it ready to go online, it’s just a matter of turning a couple of valves. There shouldn’t be any interruption in supply, except for a brief time. That will be at night, and we’ll give plenty of notice,” said Poteet.

Lane closures will likely begin this week along Collier Boulevard, as pipes are laid out in a long line before being pulled underground. The inside or left-hand lane heading off the island will be closed, first from North Barfield to Fairlawn Drive for about three weeks, followed by the same lane being closed from Barfield to Bluebird Avenue for another three weeks.

The new lines will accommodate when homes in the Isles of Capri transition from septic tanks to a central sewer system, said Poteet, and allow the retirement of the “ailing” Marco Shores wastewater plant by conveying wastewater under the Marco River to the treatment plant on Marco Island. Engineers looked at four options and determined the most feasible plan was to replace the treatment facility with a pump station.

The original contract approved by city council in July 2018 was for $9,089,175. This was reduced when the cost of high density piping was removed, saving the city over $53,000 in taxes. Marco Island received a grant of $400,000 from the State of Florida for design work, and an additional $750,000 grant for construction work.

Installation of the project will eliminate over $500,000 in annual cost, said Poteet, as well as the $2–6 million capital cost of replacing the Marco Shores plant. Removal of that plant will also allow the city to sell two parcels of property, 4.2 acres in Marco shores and 43 acres adjacent to Fiddler’s Creek, with an estimated property value of $4 million.

The city’s waterline work is being coordinated with a Florida Department of Transportation project to, at long last, smooth out the roadway along the 3 miles of State Road 951 between the Jolley Bridge and Fiddler’s Creek, said FDOT spokesperson Zachary Burch. Costing $4.8 million, that project recently began, and will continue through next October, although lane closures will only occur at night, said Burch.

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