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Collier County to begin beach renourishment projects in late October

Bryan Wacha
Collier County’s board members discussing the routes that trucks will take to deliver sand to the beaches.

Collier County Commissioners have unanimously approved spending nearly $5 million on three beach renourishment projects to mitigate the normal effects of erosions along shorelines in the county.

The initiative, which is set to begin in late October and end by mid-January, involves hauling 268,500 tons of sand from a mine in Immokalee to beach access points at Vanderbilt Beach and Third Avenue North.

Stretches of beach benefiting from the project include Naples Beach from just South of Lowdermilk Park to just north of the Naples Pier, from South of Delnor-Wiggins State Park to about a half mile south of Vanderbilt Beach Road and a private area of Pelican Bay Beach.

The total cost of the projects comes to less than $8 million, with $330,000 in funding for the private beach portion of the project coming from the Pelican Bay Services Division. The rest of the funding comes from the county's Tourist Development tax fund and the county is requesting partial reimbursement from the state Department of Environmental Protection.

A DEP report released in July lists nine of 12 beach areas in Collier as critically eroded.

About 268,500 tons of sand will be used for the project. The sand will be transported from a sand mine in Immokalee. Many residents say they are upset because of the number of trucks, the excess noise, construction, and traffic the project will bring into their neighborhoods.

During a recent county meeting, one committee member, Robert Roth, brought up the fact that an average dump truck carries about 22 tons, meaning that there will be roughly 10,000 trips with trucks carrying sand from Immokalee to Collier County for the duration of the project.

“What these neighborhoods put up with is no small feat,” Roth said.

This is not the first time the beach has been renourished in Collier County, however the times before were on a much smaller scale.

“When this was started a number of years ago, there was great trepidation, as you might imagine,” said Committee Chairman Dave Trecker.

However, some council members feel that the construction for safer beaches will be welcomed by residents living along the northern part of Vanderbilt Beach as erosion has been a huge problem there for years, even after an average rain storm.

“I walk the Naples Beach pretty much every weekend from 5th Avenue to the pier and, I think, after the last tropical system we had, it looked like there was a pretty big slug taken out just north of the pier, but as I walked it last week it looked much improved,” Project manager Andy Miller said.

“There is a great deal of uncertainty,” Trecker said. “It’s a big deal for places like Pelican Bay which has to fund up a pretty substantial stretch of beach where there is very limited public access. I think for the Marco folks, this is going to be very relative too.”

Work will start on Naples Beach and is expected to be completed by November. Vanderbilt Beach is expected to be finished by December and Pelican Bay is estimated to be done by the middle of January.

“We emphasized that our primary goal on the project is safety,” Miller said. “Number one is safety, number two is to be efficient and get off the beaches as quickly as we can and make them as beautiful as we can.”

This story was produced by Democracy Watch, a news service of Florida Gulf Coast University journalism students. The reporter can be reached at bmwacha8877@eagle.fgcu.edu.