When the Sand Paper last reported on the Big Carlos Pass dredging project a year ago, the Town and Lee County had been successful in getting the entities involved in both Big Carlos and Matanzas Pass dredging to agree to place the removed sand where it will drift onto areas of the island that need it most. This week, we spoke with Commissioner Larry Kiker – who told us that the Matanzas Pass dredging project has been funded and will likely begin in June and that he and West Coast Inland Navigation District (WCIND) Director Justin McBride are putting pressure on federal officials to get the final approvals for Big Carlos Pass.
“I am a member of the WCIND, and we’ve got two major projects – Matanzas Pass and Big Carlos,” Kiker said. “Since Matanzas Pass is now down to 6 feet at places, that project will be done on an emergency basis and will be paid for by $3 million in federal dollars as they consider it a major pass.”
The problem with Big Carlos Pass is – unlike Matanzas – it’s never been dredged before. For the past three years, Kiker has been working with a number of stakeholders – including Fish Tale Marina owner Al Durrett and Pam Keyes, Director of Lee County Utilities, Joanne Semmer of the Ostego Bay Foundation and many others – to get the area mapped and the permitting work done.
“The Army Corps of Engineers told us (the WCIND) that there are two major agencies who haven’t sent their approvals in,” Kiker said. “So we are asking the feds for help in getting this done.”
In a letter to the Big Carlos Pass stakeholders from Justin McBride, he said ‘we are now turning up the heat on the Federal agencies’.
“I am sending letters to Representative Curt Clawson’s office and to Senator Bill Nelson’s office requesting assistance,” he said. “I am also reaching out to the Deputy Director (of the Corps) in Jacksonville and to the head of the Regulatory Division in Jacksonville to relay our displeasure with the current timeline. I will also be reaching out to the State Supervisor of the USFWS (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service).
One thing that Kiker and McBride have accomplished is to identify a list of areas where the dredged sand is needed, so that those areas can be included in future dredging permits.
“As far as Matanzas, that sand will be pumped just offshore of the Lani Kai to Red Coconut so the sand will be filtered by the time it washes onto the beach,” Kiker said. “For Big Carlos, I plan to go to Council and ask them where they’d like it to go.”
McBride says the stakeholders can help by assisting with the pressure.
“Honestly, the best thing to do is contact Curt Clawson’s office and voice your concerns over the length of time the permit is taking,” he said. “The agencies seem to respond when there is congressional interest. We at the WCIND will be doing the same. If we have multiple inquiries, I think it would help underscore the importance.”
“The good thing is,” Kiker says, “Once the project is complete, getting a maintenance permit for future dredging will be much simpler. We are working hard and we will get this done.”
Keri Hendry Weeg