Dr. Mohamed Dabees of Humiston & Moore Engineers recently gave a presentation at the Marco Island Public Library on the current state of the Tigertail Lagoon. This event was sponsored by the Friends of Tigertail Beach.
In March 2018, a report was finalized and presented by Humiston & Moore Engineers and Turrell, Hall & Associates to the Hideaway Beach Special Tax District. The report was commissioned and paid for by Hideaway Beach Special Tax District and was meant to evaluate the changes in the lagoon system and provide recommendations to Hideaway for improved management of the lagoon system.
At the library presentation, Dr. Dabees showed numerous illustrations on the Morphologic Evolution (natural) of Tigertail Lagoon and Sand Dollar Island from 2003 – 2017.
According to the report, “The evolution of Sand Dollar Island and Tigertail Lagoon is expected to continue following the established morphologic trend.”
Dr. Dabees also indicated that the Hideaway Beach dredging of the borrow area near the north end of the Sand Dollar Island “has helped maintain the tidal exchange to the lagoon. However, recent morphologic changes indicate narrowing and shoaling of the lagoon further restricting tidal flow through to the south part of the lagoon.”
According to the report, “Hideaway Beach has dredged the north part of the lagoon in 2010 and 2016. However, the impacts of Hurricane Irma have accelerated the shoaling and over-wash of sand dollar island into the lagoon.” Irma added more sand to the tip of Sand Dollar Island, almost closing the spit.
Specific to Tigertail Lagoon, Dr. Dabees explained that the segment of the lagoon directly to the north of Tigertail Beach is silted and consequently tidal flows from the north end of the lagoon (the only connection to the Gulf) are now insufficient to flush the lagoon area directly in front of Tigertail Beach.
The presentation made it clear that these issues arise for many reasons, some natural (such as the impact of Hurricane Irma) and others are “anthropogenic” (human-caused) in nature. As stated above, Hideaway re-nourished the lagoon in 2010 and 2016. How much of that “human-caused” activity contributed to the current “clogging” issues at Tigertail Lagoon?
What should be done? Terminologies were thrown around such as “surgical cut” or a dredge. Surgical cut, short term while dredging, would provide a longer term band aid (perhaps done once every two years). Which would be more beneficial for the long term viability of the lagoon?
Tony Smith of Tigertail Paddleboard and Kayak Rentals has been on Tigertail Beach since July 1988 and has seen many changes to the lagoon. Smith favors “minimal invasive work to the entire tidal estuary.”
From Dr. Dabees’ presentation, if we assume the existing trends continue, then in the short term, the Tigertail Beach Lagoon will become isolated from the other zones of the lagoon. Eventually, there will be no exchange of water, which will lower the salinity (it will turn towards brackish or freshwater pond) which will encourage the growth of bacteria and algae.
Rick LoCastro of Marco Island, a candidate for County Commissioner District 1, sees it as “not just a Marco Island issue, but also a county and state issue, and we need to get our arms around it.”
Note: There was no mention of funding sources at the presentation. There are at least eight agencies that will need to be consulted for permits: United States Fish and Wildlife, Army Corps of Engineers, South Florida Water Management District, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Collier County, City of Marco Island and Hideaway Beach Special Taxing District.