Town of Fort Myers Beach officials discussed the aftermath of Tropical Storm Isaac and the impact it had on the seven-mile island at a Town Council workshop Thursday morning. They also talked about engineering phases for a technical perspective on future beach nourishments, if needed.
Though the latest tropical event did not cause substantial structural problems, much of the storm's effect dealt with erosion and loss of tourism.
At the workshop, Town Public Works Director Cathie Lewis stated she had not been able to conduct an assessment plan of the Beach regarding the storm in the two days since it occurred. Beachfronts on the island are still under water.
Town staff has been called upon to work overtime in beach recovery efforts. A second tropical storm in two month’s time can have lingering effects.
"We lost some additional sand," she said. "Certainly, in those areas that are still under water, we are expecting to have lost a considerable amount of sand and tourism."
Lewis stated the Beach lost sand from Pompano to Dakota streets, a stretch of 1.9 miles. She then referenced and compared a prior storm event that impacted the Beach two months earlier.
"As far as Town infrastructure, this storm actually has caused less damage than Tropical Storm Debby did," she said.
Town staff has been diligent in its storm recovery efforts. Town Manager Terry Stewart sent a report to Council members about staff time allotted and then pointed out Lewis and her department personnel have been "working really hard" over the last few days in cleaning up and assessing the damage.
"I have authorized work through the daylight hours," he said.
Lewis was unsuccessful in her attempts for FEMA funds for sand replacement after Tropical Storm Debby. She is now trying to acquire reimbursement funds for the extra Town Staff hours, including overtime, in the two cleanups.
"I have submitted to the County so that they can proceed through the State and FEMA what are anticipated expenses are going to be associated with this project," she said. "With Debby, I included some re-nourishment dollars in there, but FEMA turned it down."
Lewis stated the reason for the denial involved the Town not having a management plan for re-nourishment on the Beach. While Town officials have earmarked $110,000 for the completed beach re-nourishment on the north end of the island and set aside $160,000 for the lead abatement project at Mound House, they haven't used any beach nourishment funds for recovery efforts on either storm. Town has accumulated an investment amount of $1.1 million for beach nourishment funds over the years.
Stewart attributed Council to commit at least $100,000 for "studies that would enable the Town to understand what the very best practices would be for Fort Myers Beach. There are two phases to this project; the first has tentative results in already.
"This is a two-fold project. The first phase you already authorized and is almost finished. The coastal engineering firm (Coast & Harbor Engineering) that you hired has finished their data-gathering phase and is doing the analysis and report now."
Town staff will assess that report and inform Council what additional steps need to be accomplished and the estimated cost for them.
"We're expecting roughly $50,000 to $75,000 for the next phase, which will complete all of the other technical analysis from a coastal engineer perspective including tidal flows, storm patterns, depths, sand shifting and a whole lot more," said Stewart. "It'll give us a complete technical picture of our island and provide advice to enable us to make wise decisions about what we are going to do or actually see if we do need to do re-nourishment in this area."
The town manager estimated the second phase will take six to eight months, while the first phase should be ready within 30-45 days. The latter report will be in front of Council once completed.
"When we get done with this, I don't know if there will be another island community anywhere that is better positioned to understand what needs to be done and how to go about doing it like we will," said Stewart.