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Collier County's Emergency Berm Plan to Safeguard Beachfront Properties Following Hurricane Ian

Collier County commissioners recently approved a no-bid contract to expedite the construction of an emergency berm, in order to protect upland property left vulnerable by Hurricane Ian.

The project must be completed within six months of the storm to be eligible for reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Faced with such a tight timeline, county staff declared a public emergency in order to avoid losing critical time.

County staff is working expeditiously to put contracts out to bid for sand, hauling and construction, and has already identified a source for the sand with enough capacity. However, just how many cubic yards of it will be needed to build the berm has yet to be determined. Additionally, the size of the berm, including its length, and how private beaches will be handled is still being figured out.

Commissioner Rick LoCastro asked whether the county could use some of its stockpiled sand pushed on land from Ian to build the berm or if it would have to start from scratch; sand will have to be evaluated and cleaned up before it can go back onto the beach. The hope is to start placing sand for the berm on eligible beaches by the end of January.

The contract approved by commissioners not only meets FEMA's deadline but precedes turtle nesting season which starts May 1. The bill for the berm does not include the sand needed to rebuild Collier County's beaches ravaged by Ian; rebuilding those beaches will take much longer and a plan has yet to be developed.

FEMA has paid for sand lost due to hurricanes in Florida and other coastal states in the past, but funding is not always guaranteed and it can take years for counties and cities to receive reimbursements. Collier County pays for beach-related projects with a percentage of money raised from its 5% tax charged on overnight stays at hotels and other vacation rentals; there is currently a surplus of funds available for such projects.

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