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Blind Pass Ecozone Restoration Project

Publication Date: June 27, 2007

Blind Pass Ecozone Restoration Project

In 1998, the CEPD petitioned the State of Florida for an emergency permit to dredge Blind Pass which at the time was in imminent danger of closing. Despite the emergency nature of the request, the environmental constraints of a new dredging project in the protected waters of the Pine Island Sound Aquatic Preserve resulted in an agency determination that would only allow for dredging seaward of the Blind Pass bridge. Although advised by the district s engineer, that a project that did not address removal of the materials accumulated in the interior of the pass had only an approximately 20 percent chance of permanent success, the agencies insisted that this hurdle must be jumped before they would consider reviewing an application that addressed the interior of the pass. As predicted, the opening made by this project was indeed only temporary.

Lee County, the CEPD and the City of Sanibel have now partnered together to develop a comprehensive plan and a project to restore the entire Blind Pass Ecozone. An interlocal agreement between the parties, dated June 22, 2004, recognizes a mutual desire and commitment to cooperate in the permitting, financing and construction of the Blind Pass Ecozone Restoration Project. The three governments share geographic and regulatory jurisdiction over the Blind Pass Ecozone Restoration area, however Lee County by statute is the regulatory authority over the inlet and as such is the sponsor for the permit application process and the direct project management, www.lee-county.com.

The Blind Pass Ecozone Restoration Project will re-kindle the extraordinary productivity of fisheries, invertebrates, bird life, and sea grasses that were previously present in the open pass, as well as protecting over a hundred acres of productive mangrove forest and improving water conditions in both Dinkin s and Clam Bayous.

This project will be conducted in two phases.

The first phase of the restoration project was completed  by the City of Sanibel. An integral part of the project, the City of Sanibel installed a culvert under San-Cap Road between Dinkins Bayou and Clam Bayou alleviating inundated mangrove habitats within Clam Bayou. The increased water velocity is only a fraction of the positive effects expected upon completion of the entire project.

Phase Two will remove materials from the entrance of Blind Pass and the interior waterways to restore a flushing connection to the Gulf of Mexico. The Joint Coastal Permit (JCP) was submitted to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Bureau of Beaches and Coastal Systems (BBCS) in May of 2006. Currently the permit is in its fourth request for additional information (RAI). Projects typically only go through an average of three RAI periods but officials are hopeful that permits will be finalized this summer.

The permit proposes to remove approximately 100,000 cubic yards of material to restore water flow in the pass. Suitable materials will be placed on adjacent beaches for increased storm protection and recreational benefit.  It is estimated that the material will extend a shoreline of 2,500 feet in length and 40 feet into the Gulf.

Increased water velocities will aid in maintaining the pass by scouring impounded sediment into the Gulf of Mexico but maintenance is still anticipated on a five to seven year interval basis depending on the shoaling rate.

Details of mitigations concerning sea grass beds in the existing footprint of the plan, sea turtle nesting season, shore bird nesting and sediment analysis are still being worked out through the RAI process as citizens of the two islands join together to show their support for the project.

It is anticipated that the State of Florida will pay approximately one-third of the project s cost while the City of Sanibel, Lee County and the CEPD evenly share the remainder.

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