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Crunch time for Collier County after approval of the Emergency Berm Project

Vanderbilt Beach Berms
Posted at 4:42 PM, Jan 25, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-25 19:29:12-05

Nearly four months after Hurricane Ian, the Collier County Commissioners voted to approve the funding for the 2023 Emergency Berm Project for Collier County Beaches.

The commissioners have been talking about this for months since many sand dunes were destroyed by Hurricane Ian.

Vanderbilt Beach is one of the beaches included in the County's $24,000,000 emergency plan to rebuild the berms.

With that price tag and with hurricane season approaching, the county is hoping construction can finish in a timely manner.

“You see the construction everywhere, seems more crowded in terms of just walking and pedestrian traffic," said Rick Walters. "“It's pretty obvious there is a lot going on here to rebuild."

Rick and his wife, Jane, are Fort Myers seasonal residents from Chicago. While out on Vanderbilt Beach for the first time since Hurricane Ian, they said they notice the work going into rebuilding the beach.

However, Collier County now finds itself a stressful timeline to rebuild the sand berms within FEMA's six month deadline.

"Six-months is a very short time to do a project of this size especially going through the regular process," said Andy Miller, Collier County's Costal Zone Manager.

Miller said the county's Tourist Development Council have been concerned about the FEMA deadline to complete the project by March 29th.

“We have a lot of work to do in a very short period of time,” Miller said.

Not to mention trying to complete most of the construction before not only hurricane season, but also sea turtle nesting season, which starts May 1st.

“There are avenues to do the work in turtle season but it's more complicated and more expensive,” Miller said.

Miller added there's also urgency of getting this done before hurricane season. Right now, there is no protection for the beach and it's building if another weather event like a flood or storm surge happens.

"I hope another Hurricane doesn't hit," laughed Max Imilian , a visitor from Chicago.

"Yeah hopefully another hurricane doesn't hit until everything gets fixed," said Anthone Magahmi, his friend from Chicago.

With the project potentially being $24 Million, the county wants to make sure they meet FEMA's deadline to be reimbursed. Miller said if the county misses the deadline, FEMA said the county could request an extension through the state.