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Gordon Pass Dredging Project Set to Start in August

Posted on July 14, 2016

By Eric Staats, Naples Daily News

Crews are set to start dredging Gordon Pass next month to remove sand shoals that have raised boater safety worries, but now new concerns have emerged about whether the project will remove enough sand.

The $1.7 million project was reduced by almost half because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers didn’t have enough money to remove sand from a hole dug north of the channel to catch sand before it can clog up the channel again. That could mean the pass will fill in again sooner than later, critics say.

“Nobody expected it to be a half-ass job, but that’s exactly what we’re getting,” said Royal Harbor boater Maarten Heybroek, who has been pushing for the federal project.

Corps of Engineers spokeswoman Susan Jackson said the agency is “doing what we can do” for a pass that does not rank high on the federal priority list.

“There’s only a certain amount of money out there and it’s used to the best of our ability to complete projects,” Jackson said.

In 2015, the Corps of Engineers rejected a call from U.S. Reps. Curt Clawson, R-Bonita Springs, and Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, to put $2.5 million in its budget for fiscal 2016 to dredge the pass.

Boaters have been sounding the alarm for at least two years about what they say are hazardous conditions in the channel that is the main route from Naples Bay to the Gulf of Mexico. Captains have said the shoaling is bad enough that large boats risk running aground, damaging boats and injuring passengers.

When the Corps last dredged the pass in 2010, dredgers dug to a depth of 12 feet. That is again the plan when work starts up as early as mid-August. Work could continue into October. The pass also was dredged in 2002.

Evansville, Ind.,-based Southwind Construction Corp. is set to start dredging after moving its dredging equipment from another project in Fort Myers Beach.

Dredgers will remove sand from the approach to the pass in the Gulf of Mexico and also from a stretch of the channel inside the pass as it jogs eastward after a turn to the north.

Sand from the dredging will be spread on the beach on Keewaydin Island, south of the channel, where the sand would naturally flow if it weren’t for the channel. That beach fronts the island compound owned by investor Jack Donahue.

Environmental advocates have expressed concern that the around-the-clock operation will disturb sea turtle nesting, which will be subject to monitoring during the dredging project. Crews are shielding lighting on the dredge so as not to deter nesting sea turtles or to confuse babe sea turtles emerging from their nest.

Corps officials are asking the public to use caution in the channel during the dredging work and “to be patient with temporary construction noise.”

Source: Naples Daily News

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