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SHIFTING SANDS: Fort Myers Beach embarks on multimillion-dollar shoreline revival

Posted at 10:07 PM, Feb 13, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-13 22:07:01-05

FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla. — Another effort to replenish the eroded shores of Fort Myers Beach has kicked off, with trucks now actively transporting sand to the south end of Estero Island, close to Big Carlos Pass.

Local neighbors Linda and Larry Wenstrup, who live just across the street from the activity, are among those directly affected by the noise and movement.

"I wish our grandsons were here to see all the moving equipment," Linda Wenstrup said.

The operation will see 200 truckloads of sand being transported daily from a mine in Immokalee, funded by an eight million dollar grant from the Florida Department of Emergency Management. This project aims to connect FEMA berms into a continuous berm to improve the beach's resilience against storms. A strategy that town leaders say, proved its worth during more recent weather events.

Chadd Chustz, the Environmental Project Manager of Fort Myers Beach, explained the effectiveness of the berms in reducing overwash, particularly in areas not previously protected

"They did their job, we definitely noticed a difference in the level of overwash on the north side that didn't qualify for a berm, there was a lot more over wash into Estero Boulevard" Chustz stated.

The initiative comes in response to Hurricane Ian's devastation, which removed nearly 220,000 cubic yards of sand from the beach. This project will replace 112,000 tons of that and serves as a precursor to a larger beach renourishment project that will begin early this summer. The larger project aims to add around a million cubic yards of sand, dredged offshore, to the beach, with total costs surpassing $40 million.

Linda Wenstrup expressed some concerns regarding the high stakes involved. "They're spending a lot of money, but if it doesn't work out, then what do we do?" she pondered.

Upon completion of the sand hauling and renourishment projects, the town plans to implement a dune management plan, which will include the addition of plantings to strengthen the newly formed dunes.

Town leaders estimate the current project will last approximately three months.