This Tuesday, May 17th, navigational buoys in Matanzas Pass will be moved in anticipation of an emergency dredging of the pass, which is scheduled to begin sometime next month.
“We have been notified by the Coast Guard that their cutter, VISE, will be working in Matanzas Pass, Ft. Myers Beach, between May 17th and May 19th,” said Town Environmental Science Technician Rae Blake. “VISE will be relocating the aids to navigation in advance of upcoming dredging in Matanzas Pass. Dredging is expected to begin in June 2016.”
The dredging is the result of efforts made by the West Coast Inland Navigational District (WCIND), who put the project on the fast track after they heard reports that the federally-managed channel was down to six feet in some places – representing a serious navigational and safety hazard.
“I am a member of the WCIND, and we’ve got two major projects – Matanzas Pass and Big Carlos,” Commissioner Larry Kiker told us. “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.”
Where the sand will be placed from the dredging project has been a topic of discussion between the Town and the county in recent months – including possibly Newton Park where the beach is quite narrow – but Kiker told us the placement will be in the ‘traditional area’ near Red Coconut.
“The 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.
Matanzas Pass has been dredged numerous times over the years, with the most recent being in 2009 and again in 2012 after Tropical Storm Debby pushed a great deal of sand into San Carlos Bay. At that time, a request from the Town that the sand be placed at Newton Park was denied because it came too late.
Big Carlos Pass, where 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 – have been working hard for the past three years to get permitting approved for this critical pass at the island’s south end, is also on the radar for dredging. The problem with Big Carlos is that – unlike Matanzas Pass – it’s never been dredged before, thus requiring a long list of approvals from various agencies.
“The Army Corps of Engineers told us (WCIND) that there are two major agencies who haven’t sent their approvals in,” Kiker said. “The good thing is, 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.”
Kiker also told us that the WCIND is working hard on a number of other projects that will directly affect Fort Myers Beach – including a program to rid the back bay of derelict boats and the dredging of New Pass.
Keri Hendry Weeg