According to Executive Director for the Marco Island Civic Association, Ruth McCann, the beach regrade project is approaching its last section and is expected to meet its completion deadline of April 15, 2019.
The dredgers found some clay while dredging in the nearshore borrow area, but they trucked it offsite. The beach was elevated by about two feet in some spots and about three feet in the lower areas. Residents’ Beach did not have to take the Chikee huts down, but they had to move the concrete benches to the dune side.
The last section south of Residents’ Beach will only require 20,000 cubic yards of sand. By its completion, approximately 150,000 – 175,000 cubic yards of sand will have been dredged from the intertidal zone in front of the beach and graded up to the dunes to create a wider, positive slope. The regrade is supposed to eliminate the pooling and ponding that occurs during the rainy season. The regraded area extended about a mile of Central Beach from Sand Dollar Island to the north and up to the JW Marriott to the south. The project will cost approximately $1.150 Million.
Work was conducted in 1,500-foot sections along the beach to allow for public beach access at all times. An orange construction fence has been installed to enclose the work areas. Signs are placed along the beach directing the public access points during the construction.
Surprise, Surprise! Amidst all the noise of the regrading project, three weeks ago a burrowing owl dug a burrow right under the Thor Lightning Post on Residents’ Beach. It was banded by researchers from the University of Florida and two days after banding, the newly banded owl was observed with a new mate! It too, received a set of “jewelry.” If all goes well, it looks like Residents Beach will host its second set of chicks later this summer.
According to biologist Kim Savides, Shorebird Steward of Audubon, Florida, “The black skimmers and terns have been taking advantage of the churned waters from the dredging stirring up some fish activity. The flock also have taken advantage of the fenced off area and has taken a liking to the lack of people. The workers knew not to disturb the birds and were very respectful of their presence.”
According to Kim, many of the wintering terns are gearing up for their migration to their breeding grounds. Whether their destination is as close as Big Marco Pass (Sand Dollar Island) or as far away as the Atlantic shores, these birds will be busy preparing themselves for migration, egg laying and chick rearing.
Marco’s central beach will soon get back to normal beach activity once the regrade project is completed, and the wintering shorebirds fly back to their breeding grounds.