Posted on September 20, 2023
The Tigertail Lagoon/Sand Dollar Island Ecosystem Restoration Project was completed in May and during Hurricane Idalia on August 29, 2023, Sand Dollar Island remained largely intact and held its position protecting the lagoon and upland. However, in a limited area on the southern part of Sand Dollar Island storm surge and waves did over-wash the island and push sand into the lagoon. As a result, the City has contracted with Athna Marine to use limited mechanical equipment to excavate the sand that over-washed into the lagoon. This emergency repair work needs to be completed quickly to recover the sand before more sand is lost with the incoming and outgoing tides. Postponing the work would result in greater costs and expand the scope of the repairs. Stabilizing the berm will also make it safer for visitors and environmental monitors who walk the area at high tide. The repair work will begin on September 18th and continue for approximately two weeks. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) has approved and permitted the project. The City has also consulted with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to ensure environmental monitoring and protection of seagrasses, turtles, birds, and mangroves.
Shore bird nesting season ends on September 15, 2023 prior to the work beginning. While sea turtle nesting season continues until October 31st, the City and its contractors have coordinated with the Collier County marine turtle permit holder and identified the few remaining neststhat are either in the work area or in the mobilization/demobilization path. There will be no work done at night and no pumping equipment will be used. Project biologists will be onsite with the contractor to monitor equipment movements forthe protection of turtle nests. The City recognizes the importance of sea turtle protection and will ensure that all relevant City ordinances are followed and that this project adheresto all permit standards.
The ecosystem restoration project began in 2022 to restore the lagoon and the barrier island to pre Hurricane Irma condition. Following Hurricane Irma in 2017 Sand Dollar Island’s northern tip grew 15 acres in five years and began encroaching on the Marco River navigation channel, threatening to close off the lagoon entrance. Hurricane Ian did further damage to the middle part of the island causing it to collapse on the mangrove shoreline and severing the lagoon into two sections. The Tigertail Lagoon and Sand Dollar Island form the Big Marco Pass Critical Wildlife Area, so the project required the approval of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and the U.S Army Corps of Engineers.