The race is on to dredge Clam Pass in Collier County before sea turtles begin nesting on the nearby beaches. The flow of water from the Gulf of Mexico is needed for the health of the mangrove ecosystem in the pass, after a major storm in January caused it to be choked with sand.
County commissioner Georgia Hiller told Fox 4 that the 10-year dredging permit she helped secure from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is crucial to the survival of the mangroves.
"We started experiencing some die-off, and we were very concerned," Hiller said. "That's why we expedited our efforts."
Work was delayed due to conditions in the Gulf, as well as an oversight in the permitting process. But since turtle nesting season started on May 1, time is running out on an extension to finish widening Clam Pass before any turtles make their nests on the beach.
"At this point in time, we haven't identified any turtle nests, so I don't think there's anything that's going to impede the conclusion of the project."
Dredging crews have until Thursday to get the job done, but if a sea turtle starts nesting there before then, the dredging has to stop.
Sea turtle nesting season runs until the end of October.