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The Collier County Sheriff's Office provides six safe boating tips. National Safe Boating Week is May 20-26, 2017. Lisa Conley/Naples Daily News

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Collier County is gearing up for a $2.35 million dredging project at three locations to improve navigation in back bays and help renourish Marco Island's South Beach.

Commissioners earlier this week unanimously approved an agreement with Tarpon Springs-based Florida Dredge and Dock LLC to dredge Water Turkey Bay, Wiggins Pass and Caxambas Pass. 

Material dredged at Water Turkey Bay and Wiggins Pass will be used to bolster the intertidal zone — the area of the shoreline that is exposed to air at low tide and covered with seawater at high tide — at Barefoot Beach.

Because of the quality of the dredged material from Water Turkey Bay, it is being put on the intertidal zone where there is a washing effect and not on the dry sand, said Collier coastal projects manager Gary McAlpin.

Sand from dredging at Caxambas Pass, meanwhile, will help renourish Marco Island's South Beach.

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The projects will help boaters traversing the channels and upgrade the beach on Marco Island, county officials say.

"We get a two-fer," McAlpin said.

The projects are expected to begin next month and be completed by March 1.

Funding for the Wiggins Pass dredge, and the Caxambas Pass dredge and South Marco beach renourishment will come from tourist tax dollars. A municipal services taxing unit, called the Vanderbilt Waterways MSTU, will fund the work at Water Turkey Bay. 

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For boaters, the dredging projects are welcome news.

Wiggins Pass requires regular maintenance because of shoaling that occurs, said Alan Ritchie, president of the nonprofit Estuary Conservation Association Inc., which focuses on safe navigation and clean water in the Cocohatchee Estuary.

And with more than 1,800 docks inside Wiggins Pass and additional boat traffic from the public ramp at Cocohatchee River Park, Ritchie said, "it's a well-used channel."

"It'll make it safer and that's what we all want," he said.

Connect with the reporter at patrick.riley@naplesnews.com or on Twitter @PatJRiley.

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