Boating is an important part of our way of life and an economic driver for Lee County and all of Southwest Florida. Making sure that boaters can enjoy our local waterways safely is critical. After much planning, designing, and years of permitting, we can finally look forward to construction of the navigation channels at Big Carlos Pass and New Pass during the first half of 2017.
The shallow areas that have been bothersome to boaters will be dredged and as an added benefit, the dredged sand will be used to nourish some adjacent beaches that have been suffering from erosion.
At Big Carlos Pass, the Gulf channel was aligned to take advantage of existing deep areas and create a more direct approach to what will be the only access for larger vessels and sailboats to the south end of Estero Island.
At New Pass, some channel realignment and interior dredging will restore the prior depths and widths to support the numerous recreational boaters that access the Gulf from Lovers Key as well as travel the protected interior channels which continue south to Collier County.
Combining the two channel projects under one larger umbrella also will result in a significant cost savings to the West Coast Inland Navigation District, the entity coordinating the work with Lee County as well as paying the costs. This will be important in the future since the new permits are for longer terms of 10 or 15 years, allowing us to be more proactive on future dredging to ensure maintenance can be completed before it becomes a significant problem for boaters.
The permit conditions will be strictly followed to make sure that the work does not cause environmental harm to the Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve, but allows vessels to continue to operate safely and responsibly and enjoy this beautiful part of Lee County.
Work should begin in the spring at Big Carlos Pass and finish at New Pass by early summer. As always, boaters are reminded to keep a safe lookout while on the water, but particularly during construction, it will be even more important to watch out for equipment and pipelines to ensure that everyone stays safe as these important projects are completed.
Larry Kiker is the District 3 Lee County Commissioner and represents the BoCC on the West Coast Inland Navigation District (WCIND). Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.