Posted on September 27, 2016
By Andrea Stetson, news-press.com
About 500 yards of sand per hour are being sucked from the bottom of Gordon Pass through more than 500 feet of pipe and spread onto the beach on Keewaydin Island.
It is all part of a $1.7 million project to dredge Gordon Pass and make it more navigable for boaters.
Right now, crews are working 12 hours a day, seven days a week, but soon they will be onsite, pumping sand 24 hours a day.
The project is expected to be complete by Oct 15.
While the pass will never be closed during the dredging, Roger Jacobsen, harbormaster for the city of Naples, wants boaters to be cautious.
“We will not close the pass, but it will be very narrow at times so use caution going through the area,” Jacobsen said. “All boaters are to use caution as they traverse the pass.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project is aimed at removing the sand shoals that have been a problem for boaters.
Gordon Pass is the main route from Naples Bay to the Gulf of Mexico.
Southwind Construction Corp., based in Evansville, Ind is fulfilling the project. They are putting the sand from the dredging on the beach on Keewaydin Island, south of the channel because that is where the sand would naturally flow if there were no channel.
He said barge operators will be monitoring channel 15 for any boats that have a safety issue.
While the project does come right in the middle of turtle nesting season, Jacobsen said that is not a problem.
“Turtle nests are a non-issue because most of them have hatched out,” he said.
Jacobsen said the pass has needed dredging about every seven years.
“The last time it was dredged was 2009 and before that, 2002,” he explained.
The pass is being dredged to a depth of about 12 feet.
Right now, there are some places in Gordon Pass that have as little as four feet of water.
Susan Chaplin, owner of the Sweet Liberty, said the pass was never a problem for her shallow-draft sailboat, but it has been a problem for those with larger vessels.
“It doesn’t affect us a whole lot other than trying to steer clear of the barge,” she explained. “We draw a very shallow draft. Sailboats with a larger draft it affects them more than us. Other than the barge being right in front of us it is not a problem. It just makes it a little congested.”
Harry Julian, owner of Pure Naples, has felt the effects of a shallow Gordon Pass and is happy to see the dredging take place.
“It is tough, especially if they have any type of sea running and it is a low tide,” Julian said. “My boat draws 4.5 to 6 feet. It does not halt operations, but it is something we have to pay attention to.”
Julian said there has always been enough water in the pass for his captains to navigate the vessels, but it does take experience and it is not always easy.
“It is OK for operators that are familiar with it,” he said. “But for the leisure boaters who are not familiar where the deeper water runs, it is a safety hazard.”
That is why he is looking forward to having a deeper channel.
“We can just return to normal navigation of Gordon Pass, Julian said. “It will be safer for everyone. There will be more room for boats to pass in that channel at the same time.”