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Collier Beaches

The Collier County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the use of $24 million out of the county’s Tourist Development Tax Fund to fund the 2023 Emergency Berm Project. This renovation will involve importing almost 400,000 cubic yards of sand to county beaches to protect properties along the beach.

“We traveled beaches with [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] and the [Florida Department of Environmental Protection] and the Army Corps [of Engineers], and all three agencies were very impressed with the amount of losses we incurred,” Andy Miller, the county’s coastal zone management director, said.

Any beach, whether it be residential or commercial, is eligible for the program as long as there is a vulnerable structure present. The project will span from Barefoot Beach south to Marco Island Beach.

The berms are planned to be about knee-high and 20 to 30 feet wide at the top. These improvements are not intended to be a temporary protection.

The county needs to complete the project by the end of March, which will be six months since Hurricane Ian slammed the Gulf Coast, to be eligible for FEMA reimbursement.

“We’ve obviously been concerned about [the deadline] from the start because six months is a very short period of time to do a project of this size, especially going through the regular process,” Miller said. “We’ve been told at least unofficially—we don’t have anything in writing—that if the county is showing a good faith effort—we’ve got trucks rolling and we’re building on the beach—we can request an extension from the [Florida Division of Emergency Management].”

To expedite the process, the commissioners agreed to allow the county manager to execute a contract with an engineer in lieu of going through multiple boards before approval.

Commissioner William McDaniel hopes the efforts of beach renourishment continue after the emergency berm project is finished. “It’s imperative for us as a community to enhance our permitting and our requisites for what we’re doing with continuous beach renourishment on an ongoing basis,” he said.

Commissioner Rick LoCastro said it’s important to renovate the beaches as quickly as possible to avoid the risk of not finishing before another storm hits. “I don’t even call this an expense, I call this an investment,” he said. “And if we do these things half-speed and then get hit with another disaster, it exponentially gets worse and you can’t catch up and then you really fall behind.”

The deadline for the emergency berm project to be completed is March 29.

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