The US Army Corp of Engineers (USACE) held the first, much anticipated, public virtual monthly meeting on July 26 offering updates on the Coastal Storm Risk Management Study (CSRM). The USACE project team was joined by three Collier County staff and representatives from the City of Naples and Marco. The public, which included a dozen or so environmental professionals, learned that USACE is modifying the geographic scope of the study to include “Gulf-facing shorelines, environmental justice communities and Marco Island”. The Corps also suggested that the primary resiliency measures being evaluated will be mostly dune management, dune vegetation, and nature-based infrastructure, as this is what the County’s Advisory Committee agreed was desired by the public and within the study’s budget. Marco Island representatives argued that more structural measures be considered to protect the island, but USACE explained that these were off the table, due to federal Coastal Barrier Resource Act (CBRA) legislation and environmental review and permitting requirements, which would be extensive and likely unachievable.
The environmental advocates, which had been pushing hard to have the study include the impacts of “compound flooding” from inland precipitation through Section 8106 of the Water Development Act (WRDA) heard from County staff that this was not likely. Again, the CSRM budget and timeline constraints were noted as obstacles. Chris Mason, Collier County’s Director of Planning and Resiliency noted that the county was also planning a vulnerability assessment using state funding sources, and issues of compounded flooding could be addressed in these studies. We also learned that the USACE modeling will still be using pre-hurricane data sets, including the property data set. This raises questions about the cost-benefit ratios assessments, as values and inventory have been impacted by the storm last year.
We highly encourage Collier County citizens to stay engaged on this issue and listen in on upcoming meetings. The upcoming meeting dates are Aug.23, Sept. 27, Oct. 25, and Nov. 22 at 3:30 in the afternoon. Information to join the call is found here.