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First stage done for Bonita beach restoration

July 31, 2013
By BOB PETCHER ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

A 34-acre beach park on the northern end of Big Hickory Island has received some much needed sand placement relief. A stabilization project to keep that sand on the beachfront is next.

The private facility property, owned by Pelican Landing Community Association and contractually shared by Hyatt Resort Hotel & Spa and Hyatt Coconut Plantation, was the recipient of a 43-day beach restoration project that ended in mid-July. This week, a mobilization process to build seven king-pile groins will begin on the beachfront.

It has been a long time coming for association officials and their guests that visit the island. The need for restoration dates back to Hurricane Charley in 2004. Since then, PLCA officials have plugged local, state and federal organizations and agencies for guidance and permits.

Article Photos

The beachfront at the beach park on Big Hickory Island has expanded due to a restoration project that was recently completed.

Recently, the beachfront erosion became so bad a temporary wall was built to prevent any damage to the septic tank in between structures. The pilings for those two buildings were also underwater during high tide.

"It took us over five years to get this permitting through and, within that time, we almost lost everything," said Marie Martel, the general manager of Pelican Landing Community Association. "Two of our small pavilions were actually in the water. It was awful. We got there just in the nick of time. In fact, (Tropical Storm Andrea) tore out part of that wall we put in and knocked our well pump house over. Now, it's great. The beach is better than it has ever been."

Orion Marine Construction was the contractor that pumped roughly 95,000 cubic yards of sand (more than 100,000 tons) onto the beachfront to expand it 200 to 250 feet outward. The completed price tag on the sand placement project -one that began on June 2 and finished July 14- was roughly $1.2 million, a figure that was solely absorbed by Pelican Landing and Hyatt stakeholders and residents. The groins work will bring that cost to $1.7 million. Overall, the cost jumps to close to $3 million once you add permitting costs and engineering fees.

The project sand was dredged from an offshore shoal off New Pass that passed reviewal and authorization from several federal and state environmental and regulatory agencies.

Now that the re-nourishment process is complete, stabilization begins with erosion control structures. Florida Marine Construction is building the pre-fabricated king-pile groins, which are expected to have adjustable concrete panels.

"The groins will be buried," said Martel. "We are being told and are hoping the beach will hold much longer than 7 to 10 years. They did a project like this up in Madeira Beach 40 years ago, and they haven't had to re-nourish since then."

A permitted roped-off and buoyed swimming area will return in front of the restored beach for safety reasons as boats tend to come in close around the pass.

In the near future, dune vegetation will also be added in front of the facilities. Most of the sand is underwater in the form of sand bars and offshore shoals.

"We already have a dune in front of the buildings," said Martel. "As soon as the groin project is done, we will have vegetation put in."

While the two Bonita Springs associations share the northern end property on Big Hickory Island, the rest of the island is owned by Lee County. Back in 2009, PLCA and Hyatt representatives met with then-Lee County Commissioner Ray Judah and another County official to request Lee County's support of their permit application to the State. Judah stated that Lee County would support the project as a government sponsor, according to PLCA records. There was no financial sharing from outside sources such as West Coast Inland Navigation District, the Department of Environmental Protection or even Lee County.

The Big Hickory Island Beach Park has been referred to as Pelican Landing's "most valued amenity." The first building has been around prior to 2000, while the second one went up in 2001.

"People love the boating experience and the fact of having a private portion of an island. They don't have to drive in traffic in season. They just take a bus to the marina and take a boat," said Martel.

The park is only accessible by shuttle boat for the Pelican Landing Community Association, the Hyatt Hotel at Coconut Point and the Hyatt Vacation Club. The beach facility, which consists of a covered picnic pavilion, open deck areas, restrooms, shower facilities and two open picnic pavilions, beach lounges and umbrellas, are for use by those entities only. The general public can access the island by private boat through the adjacent County or State park lands and share the beach.

Ever since Hurricane Charley slammed the island nine years ago, the beachfront has witnessed an erosion process.

According to PLCA records:

- In May 2008, the PLCA beach committee made a presentation to state the seriousness of the erosion. A month later, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection placed Big Hickory Island on Florida's "Critical Beach Erosion List" upon PLCA's request.

- In July 2009, the City of Bonita Springs declared a shoreline emergency on that portion of the island by passing a resolution.

- In late August 2009, a 250 lineal-foot sandbagging project was completed at the location of the most critical erosion to keep the beach from receding further back into the island.

- Before the actual project began, PLCA paid $105,844.31 (while Hyatt paid $100,882.86) for consultant time and work, Coastal Planning and Engineering work as well as the sandbag work.

- On Sept. 24, 2012, a Beach Restoration FDEP Permit was issued to PLCA.

- On March 13, 2013, PLCA received a permit from the Army Corp of Engineers to begin the beach restoration project.

- On May 2, 2013, contracts were awarded to Orion Marine Construction, Inc. for the beach restoration and Florida Marina Construction, Inc. for the work on the groins.

--information provided by Pelican Landing's website at



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