Hurricane Irma Causes Emergency Repair
Hurricane Irma giveth and Hurricane Irma taketh away! When Irma struck with a fury on Sunday, September 10, she actually brought one natural positive by suctioning the water from Big Carlos Pass, pulling out with it the final 12,000 cubic yards of material to complete an ongoing dredging project without additional manmade assistance. On the flip side, Irma lashing against Crescent Beach Family Park near Times Square removed a great deal of sand, resulting in the need for an emergency renourishment.
“The need for the emergency renourishment is definitely from Hurricane Irma,” explained Steve Boutelle, Marine Operations Manager for the Natural Resources Division for Lee County. “The back side of the storm came in high enough that it produced waves that hit Crescent Beach Family Park. They were ramming up against the old seawall there and, as can happen with coastal properties with seawalls, reflected off of it in a manner that pulled the sand away from the beach. We will truck in compatible beach sand from an upland mine to restore the beach to its condition prior to Irma. There are several Southwest Florida mines with beach sand, but it will be up to the bidders to recommend the location in their competitive package.”
Due to the emergency nature of the Crescent Beach restoration, Lee County waived its normal solicitation procedure. “Generally speaking, any time Lee County needs to procure goods or services over $100,000 we must go through a very formalized process of securing bids,” Boutelle explained, “but the Lee Board of County Commissioners can authorize a less formal solution designed to simplify the specifications while still having at least three bids to evaluate competitively. This just removes some of the formalities to make everything move quicker, to make a potential decision on our vendor before the situation grows worse and requires more funds to repair.”
The emergency process states that Lee County will not allocate more than $200,000 for the Crescent Beach renourishment. “Funding will come from the Tourist Development Council (TDC) Tax, from monies Lee County sets aside annually in anticipation of such projects,” Boutelle said. “It’s not truly for hurricane repairs, of course, as we hope we do not have one every year, but there is enough flexibility in the budget to deal with contingencies such as this. While $200,000 is certainly no insignificant amount, as far as beach projects go, this one is pretty small.”
Working Against The Clock
Boutelle explained that Lee County is “working against the clock, as the State of Emergency means the project must be underway by November 3, to expedite the work and clean up and get out of there as far ahead of season as we can. Unfortunately, this will require some closing of the park, as large trucks will deliver the sand, along with additional equipment to spread it out. The beachfront there is only 375 feet wide, so it will be essential to create a construction zone. We will set it up so people can still walk around it without too much trouble, as the sand is going to the dry part of the beach, so we will need to close that part off to the public. It is still too early to tell the exact closing dates, until the winning bid contractor submits their documents, but we anticipate the entire project being a maximum of 30 days, from beginning to substantial completion. A lot will depend on the rate we can get trucks in and out of there, and that may be an issue, as those trucks are still pretty busy right now following the hurricane.”
Lee County recognizes, however, this is a short-term answer to the seawall issue that will eventually require a long-term repair. “We still had a really healthy beach there before Irma,” related Boutelle “but now, without the sand there and at the high tide, the reduction to the recreation value to Crescent Beach Family Park is pretty dramatic, so this is a good opportunity to provide a nice temporary fix while we work at a long-term solution.”
Prior to Hurricane Charley hitting Fort Myers Beach on Friday, August 13, 2004, the Crescent Beach Family Park site was the location of several small beach hotels. Lee County purchased the property in September 2010 for $5.6 million, then designed the park shortly thereafter.
In a related matter, the Town of Fort Myers Beach’s volunteer Crescent Beach Advisory Committee was to meet on Thursday, October 19, but had to cancel due to a lack of a quorum among its four members. Sean DePalma, the Town’s Parks & Recreation Director, informed the members in attendance that he would soon request that Town Council appoint at least one more member, to avoid this issue for future sessions.