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A sea wall collapsed on Marco Island. One contractor thinks it's a sign of things to come

Posted at 6:53 PM, Jun 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-30 18:53:11-04

MARCO ISLAND — The collapse of the Champlain South Towers in Surfside is making people take a closer look at structural integrity of buildings across the state.

One contractor in Marco Island tells us miles of sea walls may need to be replaced, and it’s not clear how that’s going to happen.

The main issue is getting the finished walls onto the island to be installed. Right now, contractor Duane Thomas tells us the majority of sea walls on the island need to be replaced in the next five years, but he thinks the solution could be in Veterans Park.

Thomas showed us a wall that collapsed over the weekend. He said it’s a sign of things to come.

"The island, in my estimation, is running on borrowed time. It’s a catastrophe waiting to happen," said Thomas.

Thomas said the issue is getting the finished sea walls onto the island, and removing the old walls. Right now, there’s no public dock for contractors to use.

“I have to go out and solicit private property owners, beg them to use their property, and or offer them money to use their lots," said Thomas.

But Thomas believes Veterans Park could be a perfect solution.

“It’s a perfect site for marine contractors. The bridge that’s underneath here is three foot higher than the rest of the bridges on Marco Island, so it doesn’t affect me on tides," said Thomas.

City Council Member Erik Brechnitz tells us, he agrees there are a lot of needed repairs, but he said the park is not the place for it.

“We have an $11 million project to renovate that park," said Brechnitz.

Brechnitz said, despite aging sea walls, he doesn’t think the City needs to be providing a site for contractors.

"It is a City problem, but I don’t know that the solution comes from Government. I think this is a private enterprise business," said Brechnitz.

Thomas said, with the shrinking number of vacant lots available for contractors to use, the private industry may soon be out of options.

“The shear numbers don’t add up. We’ve got thousands of sea walls that need to be replaced in the next five years, and no place to bring the product in," said Brechnitz.

If the City doesn’t put in a staging area for the contractors, they may end up having to use a space all the way over in Naples to then ship the sea walls in. Thomas said, if that happens, the price could double or even triple, which he fears will cause people to put off replacing their walls.

Brechnitz said he does not believe many people would put off needed repairs to their sea walls.