When Hurricane Irma came ashore on Marco Island, it came as a Category 3 storm at 3:35 PM on the afternoon of Sunday, September 10, 2017. She was packing winds between 120-130 miles per hour and wreaked havoc across our community and the vast majority of the State of Florida.
Residences and commercial properties around the island were seriously damaged as a result of that storm; however, we were spared the tragedy of the loss of lives as a result of Irma. When they were able to venture out the next day, residents began the arduous tasks of picking up their lives and moving forward.
Now, 2 years and 8 months later, the residents and owners at Ville de Marco West are about to emerge from their long journey since Irma’s tremendous storm surge literally washed the very ground from under one of their buildings and caused the seawall to collapse.
The Board of Directors at Ville de Marco West was left with a more daunting issue, that being of rumors, misinformation and an illusion created by a visual which is not substantiated in fact or reality.
The effects of Irma caused the popular condo complex to lose approximately 150 feet of seawall during the storm, along with the subsequent erosion of earth in front of and under one of the buildings which make up that complex. That erosion of the land exposes the pilings which provided the foundation for those buildings to be perched upon. The loss of the earth did not affect the structural integrity of the buildings according to Matt Norton, CEO/Principal Engineer of Forge Engineering.
The complex sits alongside the Marco River and is at the mouth of Collier Creek which runs into Collier Bay. Collier Creek and Collier Bay which provides access to the Gulf of Mexico for approximately 35-40% of the island’s boat traffic.
“We had inspected the building and determined that they were structurally sound. They were constructed on a driven concrete piling foundation, which is performing as structurally designed, after a significant scouring event from Hurricane Irma,” Norton stated in September of 2017.
The complex itself was visited by then–Governor Scott, as he surveyed the damage done by Hurricane Irma. Scott, an avid boater and resident of Naples, was familiar with the area and toured the complex with board members. management staff and city officials.
Planning for the remediation of the damages as well as negotiation with insurance carriers was a long and laborious and sometimes grueling task. In the meantime, due to the storm damage, the building’s original utility services were disconnected and provisions to power air conditioners and dehumidifying capabilities were installed to prevent damage to any of the units in the affected building.
9 months from the date of Irma’s landfall, the work to restore the complex and repair the damages would begin in earnest. On June 29th, the condo association welcomed guests and dignitaries from the city and the county to join with them to toast the commencement of the construction that will accomplish that goal.
A new seawall at Ville DeMarco West was required as a result of inward pressure due to the loss of the earthen material from under the “point-building.” That damage rendered it uninhabitable, but whose interior environment was maintained by temporary electrical services.
Kelly Brothers Marine Contractors from Fort Myers was contracted to install a new interlocking cantilever seawall. The wall consists of specially coated steel sheets which range from 47 feet to 53 feet long. It had a 4-foot-wide by 2-foot-high cement cap poured on top. A special matted material was installed at the bottom of the seawall which will provide anti-scouring protection at the base.
That wall was installed, replacing the old damaged section of the wall, and the work began to reinstall the necessary utilities under the building. The Kelly Brothers then proceeded to replace the earthen material that was lost under the building and on the inside of the seawall. Over 7,000 cubic yards of material was transferred to under that point building.
The oversized barge from Kelly Brothers has finished its work and the final touches are being done to the building which will allow the Condo Association to allow owners to once again inhabit their units once all the inspections are completed.
When asked for his thoughts regarding the process that his association has endured during the last 2 years and 8 months, Board President Ben Farnsworth could only smile and as he explained that the successful completion of the project was a direct result of a collaborative effort.
“We received outstanding support throughout the entire process from all levels and departments within government. Locally, the County, State and Federal staff were excellent to work with. But I have to tell you, our owners went out of their way to be understanding and patient throughout these many months, and for that, I and the entire board are especially thankful,” said a somewhat relieved volunteer Board President.