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Beach restoration project celebrates one year

December 25, 2012
By BOB PETCHER ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

It has been a year since sand was placed on the northern 1.2 miles of Estero Island from an offshore site to re-nourish the eroding end of Fort Myers Beach.

The official anniversary for the completion of sand placement that ended the Estero Island Restoration Project just days before Christmas week and its target date of Dec. 31, was Dec. 17. The 219-day project took the Florida Dredge & Dock contracting operation an estimated 2,707 hours and included a rough estimate of 2,379 hours of mechanical and weather delays.

While 53 weeks have passed, so has some of the sand from the beachfront beyond the constructed rock jetty and into Matanzas Pass at Bowditch Point. But, overall, Lee County officials have deemed the project, which placed roughly 389,655 cubic yards of sand on the thinning shoreline, a success.

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"The project appears to be performing as expected," said Steve Boutelle of Lee County Natural Resources Division. "Success is something that can only be fully assessed over time, but the restored beach clearly demonstrated its value this summer during Tropical Storm Debby."

Since project completion, County officials have been involved in a monitoring process to determine annual depreciation. Measurements have been taken to quantify how the beach is performing.

So far, County records state that the monitoring surveys in the project area show an approximate 25 percent loss ratio between the material dredged and placed. The report further stated that the loss percentage ratio is considered "a reasonable value considering the influences of Matanzas Pass and approximate eight-month construction timeframe."

The May 2012 post-construction report serves as a baseline for years moving forward. However, beach "performance" on the sand-placed 6,707 feet of shoreline cannot be evaluated until the first annual monitoring report is completed after surveys are taken during the course of a seven-day period in January 2013, said Boutelle.

"(At that time), comparisons will be done against the post construction report," he said.

The restored beachfront should hold for at least seven years and hopefully last for 10 years, said Project Coordinator Robert Neal last year at this time.

The jetty -also called a terminal groin- was completed Sept. 9, 2011, and is constructed of roughly 3,634 tons of limestone rock and 240 feet of vinyl sheetpile. The design intent for adding the jetty is to slow the sediment transport into the Matanzas Channel and, thus, reduce the maintenance frequency. The Army Corps of Engineers is currently involved in an emergency dredging operation of the federal navigation channel at this time.

County officials are required to till the beach on an annual basis for three years. The tilling process -raking to a depth of 24 inches- is required before April 15, 2013 and again in 2014. The process will aid the sea turtle's natural environment.

"It involves a tractor or similar equipment pulling tines or disks through the sand to till it just like a farm field. It is then smoothed over to minimize the furrows," said Boutelle. "It is required as a permit condition to improve sea turtle nesting habitat."

The restoration project began at Bowditch Point with a jetty-building process and sand placement operation and ended at the southern terminus of Crescent Beach Family Park. It began May 1, 2012, and had its share of weather and mechanical delays as well as a change order that extended the timeline from Nov. 20 to year's end. Operational changes were also made to improve the contractor's production rate.

Town and County officials celebrated a ribbon-cutting ceremony in April 2012 in what was called "phase one" of the Estero Island Beach Restoration Project. At the event, then-Beach Mayor Larry Kiker stated Town and County officials worked well throughout the project's depth, but recognized the job is not over. Kiker is now a Lee County Commissioner and chairman of the Tourism Development Council.

"Our beaches are the economic driver for Lee County tourism, and it remains paramount to our economy," he said in April. "About 80 percent of the beach did not get re-nourished. We cannot stop now if this is going to remain a viable program. Tomorrow morning when we wake up, we need to re-double our efforts to make sure our beaches and shorelines are preserved."

The Estero Island Beach Restoration Project cost breakdown for the 1.2 miles of restoration involved $2 million from Florida Department of Environmental Protection, $1.4 million from Lee County; $675 from WCIND and $110,624 from the Town of Fort Myers Beach.



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