Second dredging proposed for Tigertail Lagoon in Marco Island, ecosystem at risk

A local non-profit proposed Wednesday a second dredging of Tigertail Lagoon in Marco Island after a study shows a section becoming more shallow due to poor tidal flow, putting its ecosystem at risk. 

Friends of Tigertail Beach hosted a presentation about the state of the lagoon at the Marco Island Library, where a room full of concerned residents learned zone 3 may eventually dry up as sand accumulates in the area, a situation worsened two years ago by Hurricane Irma.

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"If this situation is not addressed, wildlife and fish populations will decline as lagoon bacterial levels rise," the organization wrote in a news release. "Scientific data have suggested that without intervention in this area [...] the lagoon will be completely cut off from tidal flow."

The Hideaway Tax Districtdredged an area near the entrance of the lagoon in 2010 and 2016 in an effort to allow tidal flow to continue in and out of the lagoon, according to the non-profit.

Mohamed Dabees, senior engineer with Humiston & Moore Engineers, compared the current situation of the lagoon with an artery. 

"Think of it as an artery that is 90 percent clogged," Dabees said. "The dredging [...] is a lifeline to the lagoon."

One of the alternatives, according to the study, consists in an approximately 15-feet-wide, 5-feet-deep channel from the north end of the lagoon to the south end across zones 2 and 3. This channel would increase the tidal amplitude by approximately 56 percent.

Several endangered and threatened species like the manatee, reddish egret, blue heron, black skimmer, least tern and snowy plover are part of the lagoon's ecosystem, according to Ricardo Zambrano, regional biologist of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation.

"Some of those species use other zones for feeding and foraging," Zambrano wrote in an email to the Eagle. "But if zone 3 dries up they would move to another zone or another site if there is nothing similar to zone 3 habitat."

The City of Marco Island can't complete this project by itself, according to Zambrano. The city would likely need to acquire permits from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Florida Department of Environmental Protection and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Rich Blonna, a Marco Island resident since 2011, said he is concerned that the proposal doesn't focus enough on improving the recreational qualities of the lagoon.

"You really can't paddle through there anymore," Blonna said. "At low tide you can literally get stuck in the mud."

Dabees said the cost of the project it is unclear. "I can't give you the answer right now," Dabees said.

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