By Pamela Nicholls, GSAC Board Member
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A multi-million-dollar project to replace the tons of sand washed away from Collier beaches by Hurricane Ian is underway. In a race to qualify for federal funding, County commissioners recently approved almost $200,000 to design a plan to restore miles of berm on public beaches from Marco Island to North Naples.
The berm is typically considered the upper level of the beach face — the raised area that stays dry at high tide. From design to permitting to execution and construction, the “emergency” berm must be completed within six months of Ian’s landfall for Collier County to be eligible for reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
While the project is still in the design phase, City Councilman Ray Christman hopes that trucks will start hauling sand to the City’s beaches by early to mid-February. He estimates it will take approximately six weeks to complete the project. Although “this will run tight against FEMA’s March 23 completion deadline,” Christman says the County is optimistic that FEMA will grant an extension.
The overall cost is projected to be circa $24 million, with the lion’s share going towards purchasing, hauling and installing the estimated 400,000 cubic yards of sand required. Christman, the City’s representative on the County’s Coastal Advisory Committee, understands the new berm will be approximately 30 feet deep (wide), and two to four feet high with a 6:1 slope.
As to whether the project will include any dune planting and who will pay for it, remains to be seen.
Increasing the width of the berms on our beaches was one of several measures to reduce damage from coastal storms proposed by the Army Corps of Engineers in their 2020 coastal resiliency plan for the county.
The emergency berm is just the start in the long-term process of rebuilding Collier’s beaches. At this juncture there is no plan for how and when that will get done across the county.
According to FEMA, emergency berms are meant to protect upland property from immediate threats, not permanently restore beaches.
Any questions on the beach berm project can be directed to Bob Middleton, Public Works Director, on 239 213 4735 or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org