The US Army Corps wants to hear from the public on the future of coastal resiliency.
By Pamela Nicholls, GSAC Board Member
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Over 400 stakeholders – local residents, politicians, representatives of condo associations, businesses and advocacy groups attended the first of two scheduled scoping meetings hosted by The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) on April 18.
The Corps is looking for public input as they reevaluate and reformulate their original Collier County Coastal Storm Risk Management Feasibility Study which stalled out in 2021.
That plan focused heavily on infrastructure that included extensive floodwalls as well as massive floodgates at Wiggins and Doctors Passes. The visual, economic, environmental and quality of life impacts of this plan were not popular among coastal dwellers and greatly concerned City and County officials and environmental organizations.
“We believe that the public should insist on a better plan for Collier County than was offered by the Army Corps in 2021,” says April Olson, Senior Environmental Planning Specialist for the local Conservancy of Southwest Florida. “A storm surge plan must work in concert with nature not against nature.”
The Corps’ Michelle Hamor, Chief of the Planning and Policy Branch, led the discussion at the virtual public meeting. She said the Corps intention this time around, is to do better at engaging locals so ACE can come up with a plan which is not only “engineeringly feasible, environmentally compliant and economically justified” but the right plan for the region.
“We could have the best plan but without local support what good is that plan?” noted Hamor.
Following a 45-minute narrative on the who, what, when, where and why of the CSRM, Mark Haviland, chief of public affairs, opened the floor to questions. There were a lot of them. So many, that the meeting ran over by a full hour.
City and County officials and The Conservancy of Southwest Florida are urging residents and businesses to attend the next public meeting on April 26 to ensure they have a voice on a storm surge plan which could dramatically affect our neighborhoods.
“We were encouraged by the many thoughtful statements and questions offered during Tuesday’s meeting,” said the Conservancy’s April Olson. Based on what the community shared in the Zoom Chat, one thing became crystal clear – our community wants nature-based solutions to be part of this study.
“The best way to assure that our environment is considered during the Corps’ study process is to have our County Commission request that a locally preferred plan that includes nature-based solutions be initiated and to invite the Corps’ Engineering With Nature team to participate throughout the study process,” said Olson.
“We encourage everyone to reach out to the Commissioners today and convey this message.”
In-person Public Meeting Scheduled for April 26, 2023
An in-person public meeting will be held on April 26, 2023, from 5:30 to 7pm at the South Regional Library, 8605 Lely Cultural Parkway, Naples, 34113. This meeting will begin with a brief presentation followed by an open-house-style forum.
The Conservancy is urging residents and businesses to participate in the planning process and warns that these meetings may be the only opportunity for meaningful interaction.
“As an organization that works closely with the Corps’ Jacksonville District, we understand that input at the beginning of the process is critical,” says the Conservancy’s president and CEO, Rob Moher. “If the community does not get engaged, we will end up with a plan that is likely not responsive or beneficial to our local needs.”
If you are unable to make this meeting you can submit statements, comments or questions on the project website, or by email to the project email address or by mail to: Ms. Kathy Perdue, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Norfolk District, 803 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510.
All submissions must be received no later than May 8, 2023. If you have any questions, please contact Ms. Perdue at (757) 201-7218 or Collier-CSRM@usace.army.mil.
See the Conservancy’s main talking points and learn how you can take action to ensure that our world-renowned coastal resources, tourism, and our local way of life are safeguarded.
Visit the Conservancy’s dedicated webpage to keep on top of the CSRM Feasibility Study.