$40 million of sand on the beach

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Real Estate


Hurricane Ian washed away hundreds of thousands of tons of sand from Estero Island, and Fort Myers Beach officials have been working since to replace the critical shoreline.

Several projects are underway now, with much of the current work occurring at the south side of the island in order to beat shoreline nesting bird season, which starts March 1.

"By this time next year, we will have put around $40 million of sand on the beach," said Chadd Chustz, project manager for the Town of Fort Myers Beach. "For this project it’s 112,00 tons, and that’s in addition to the 100,000 tons with the FEMA berm. And we’re going to put (more than 1 million tons) of sand with the big renourishment."

Parts of Fort Myers Beach were stripped back to the structures in areas like Times Square, and the erosion sucked away sand from underneath some buildings there.

The work is being funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, the Florida Department of Emergency Management, the Lee County Tourism Development Council and the Town of Fort Myers Beach.

'Theoretically it should last 10 years'
The beach is being engineered to withstand a 25-year storm, which is the final calculation engineers use to measure the robustness of an engineered beach.

"Theoretically it should last 10 years, but we all know one storm could wipe it out," Chustz said. "Ian eroded over 220,000 cubic yards of sands from Fort Myers Beach. We were fortunate that we already had the big project in the process to get finished because we need it now more than ever."

There are some challenges at Fort Myers Beach as the island is large and has a variety of landscapes, from the urbanized area surrounding Times Square to the relatively remote and isolated shoreline nesting bird refuge at the south end of the island.

The shorebird nesting preserve is one of the largest in the state that's located on a developed island, and it's used yearly by a variety of protected species.

The width of the beach being added varies as well because some areas were completely stripped of sand while parts of the island still have the width, but not the elevation needed to protect the island from smaller summer storms.

Sea turtle nesting season on the horizon
"You don’t’ have lateral access across the beach (at some points) so there it’s putting in over 200 feet of beach but, some spots the beach is already 100 to 200 feet out and the project will add elevation to the beach rather than building out," Chustz said.

Sea turtle nesting season will also impact the beach renourishment as turtle nests must be relocated while the project is underway.

"We work with marine turtle permit holders to monitor and relocate nests," Chustz said. "You can’t move a shorebird nest, so that’s why we’re trying to get the south end done before the March 1 deadline. And then we'll work our way north."

Sea turtle nesting season here runs from May through October.

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