Marco Island City Council to vote on proposal to identify source of nutrients affecting canals

Marco Island City Council will vote Monday on the staff-selected proposal to identify the source of nutrients affecting water canals, according to the meeting agenda.

The vote comes after a committee constituted by City Manager Mike McNees and other staff selected Environmental Research and Design (ERD) from Orlando as the top candidate

Founded in 1986 by Harvey H. Harper, ERD works primarily in surface water and groundwater management and storm water treatment, according to the company's website.

"I think choosing Dr. Harper's firm was absolutely the step in the right direction," said city councilor Sam Young during a Waterways Advisory Committee meeting Nov. 21.

Young said the city needs "fresh eyes," referring to Turrell, Hall & Associates, another candidate that submitted a proposal and which the city has previously hired to do this kind of work.

"Turrell was OK but they are too close," Young said. "We need fresh eyes and Dr. Harper has the expertise." 

"I couldn't have been more thrilled to see the outcome that his firm was selected and I look forward to supporting that in Council as well."

Sam Young, Marco Island city councilor, showed support for the selection of Environmental Research and Design to identify the source of nutrients affecting water canals. "I think choosing Dr. Harper's firm was absolutely the step in the right direction," Young said during a Waterways Advisory Committee meeting on Nov. 21.

More:Waterways approves RFP to identify source of nutrients affecting Marco Island canals

And:Marco Island waterways added to state impairment list after elected official contacts DEP

At the meeting, Waterways passed unanimously a motion to recommend the selection of ERD to City Council.

If selected, ERD will be tasked with reviewing historical water quality data, designing a monitoring program to determine the source of nutrients within the city's waterways and prepare a final report with recommendations to improve water quality, according to the city's request for proposal.

Jason Tomassetti, the city's stormwater engineer, wrote in an email to the Eagle that the company selected will analyze data from Collier County's 14 water monitoring stations located throughout the island.

"We have a contract with Collier County for monthly testing which is good through September 2020," Tomassetti wrote. "ERD, Inc. will be using that data along with taking their own tests at different locations."

The Orlando-based company may start its own monitoring by March or April of next year, according to Tomassetti.

"Staff will be negotiating cost with ERD, Inc. once the scope (of work) has been finalized, Tomassetti wrote. "I anticipate the entire project to last for approximately 15-18 months."

Excessive nutrient supply can stimulate the growth of nuisance plants, creating, on occasion, algal blooms, according to a 2019 study on nitrogen levels in Marco waters.

Algal blooms can reduce water clarity and impact corals and sea grasses that provide food and shelter for fishes, crabs and shrimp.

"Once algal blooms die-off, their decomposition can reduce levels of dissolved oxygen, which is essential to most forms of aquatic life," according to the report.

"After years and years of talking, we are finally gonna get some real data that we can base opinions on," said David Crain, vice-chair of the Waterways Advisory Committee of the city of Marco Island during a committee meeting on Nov. 21.

In case you missed it:Marco Island grapples with additional ways to address water quality issues

The report concluded nitrogen levels have increased within Marco waterways over the past four years and over the past five years within the waters surrounding the island. 

"The waterways via tidal exchange may already be problematic before it enters the canals," according to the report. "Finding ways to reduce the upland sources of nitrogen, coupled with increasing the time it takes stormwater to enter the canal system would help reduce the nitrogen loading coming from the Island land uses."

The city was put on notice by Florida Department of Environmental Protection that its waterways are impaired and in need of a corrective plan after Young asked the agency to officially acknowledge its water quality issues, the Eagle reported in August.

"After years and years of talking, we are finally gonna get some real data that we can base opinions on," said David Crain, vice-chair of Waterways, during the committee meeting.

More:University of Florida scientists identify project that could help Marco waterways