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Lee County Commissioners voted Tuesday to reopen Gulf Coast Landfill for Hurricane Ian debris. 

The landfill is off State Road 82 in Fort Myers and has been closed for 15 years. The use of the site is exclusively for debris related to Lee County’s hurricane response. 

The first stage of the removal process is collection, then bringing collected debris to debris management sites. The county has 10 debris management sites, and is working on opening one on Lee Boulevard and another on Pine Island in Littleton.  

The final stage, and the one proving to be most difficult to maneuver, is the stage of final disposal. 

“It’s an issue throughout Southwest Florida,” said Doug Whitehead, Lee County’s director of solid waste. “So many people, ourselves, Charlotte County and Collier County are searching for disposal. But for us and just for us, we think that Gulf Coast Landfill is a good solution.” 

Right now, the landfill has 800,000 cubic yards permitted for debris. “That’s quite a bit of material when you think of the compaction rate,” Whitehead said.

On Sunday, CrowderGulf collected 99,676 cubic yards of debris in a single day, meaning that by Thursday, the county will likely surpass the 2 million cubic yard mark for collection. Hitting that mark would mean the county collected the same amount of debris from Ian as it did from all of Hurricane Irma in 2017, in a quarter of the time. 

Utilization of Gulf Coast Landfill is expected to speed up debris removal by cutting the distance traveled nearly in half, making disposal time 33% quicker, city officials said. 

It is also expected to lower some costs, as equivalent airspace at the Lee-Hendry Landfill costs $18 million to develop. Shorter disposal time can also lower costs, as extended haul-out duration time could cost the county around $4 million.  

Waste Management, or WM, will operate the site, controlling odor and building view blocking berms to minimize the line of sight from the public.  

Operating hours on the site will occur only in daylight hours, with the site expected to be needed for 18 to 24 months. Other disposal sites will continue to be used along with the reopening of the landfill. 

There was one neighborhood meeting hosted Tuesday in Gateway, with two more planned for Thursday and Nov. 10 at to be determined locations.  

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