CCP Talks Water Issues From Sewer to Sea Level Rise

by SC Reporter Reese Holiday

To gage the interest level for a central sewer system, the Captiva Community Panel administered a poll last year for island residents outside of South Seas Island Resort, with 50 percent responding, and two-thirds of those in favor of a new system.

With that approval, the CCP went to work, turning in an engineering study design to the Lee County Board of County Commissioners, which agreed to fund the study.

The CCP also got approval from the Sanibel City Council to use the city’s Donax Wastewater Reclamation Facility, but the engineering study must be completed before any final decision on a central sewer system is made.

To make sure all parties were committed to the project, a Memorandum of Understanding among Lee County, Sanibel and Captiva was approved as well. These agreements and approvals were discussed in a CCP meeting on Tuesday, where BOCC Chairman Kevin Ruane’s name was mentioned several times too.

This was due to how impactful Ruane was in getting the BOCC to approve of the engineering study’s funding, with Ruane himself being a big supporter and contributor of Captiva’s central sewer system plan.

“To me, the most important project I worked on, or the one that certainly has a lot of my handprints on, is the sewer project,” Ruane, a former Sanibel mayor, said during a February CCP meeting. “I want to see that get through. We’re going to really try to make sure we address all your issues, but that one I’d like to see put to bed pretty quickly.”

Ruane said the reason for his support is to improve the water quality of both islands, something that a central sewer system can do better than the septic tanks that are scattered around Captiva.

According to the Long Island Sound Study in New York, improper use of septic tanks can result in nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus to contaminate groundwater, which can eventually affect surface water.

The CCP also discussed water quality as a reason for moving forward with an engineering study.

However, CCP President Jay Brown reminded panel members during their Tuesday meeting that they are only providing the information they receive from the study to let Captiva residents decide whether to switch to a central sewer system.

“The panel has not taken a position yet on whether or not this is the right thing for Captiva to do,” Brown said. “The only position we’ve taken is that we’re going to develop this alternative and get all of this information so the community, in an informed, democratic manner, can make that decision.”

But before any decisions are made, the BOCC and the CCP still need to hash out details for the study’s funding distribution. Once that is straightened out, the engineering study can start immediately, using CCP’s approved design.

The study will be completed in about six to nine months by an engineering firm called Kimley-Horn.

With the $100,000 study funded by the BOCC, Kimley-Horn will look at what type of sewer system works best for Captiva, as well as ways that system can be sized to be consistent with the island’s current zoning.

Once the study is completed, Captiva residents can then look at the results to determine whether they want a central sewer system for the island.

If the answer is yes, then a central sewer system will be built on the island, with Captiva connecting to Sanibel’s Donax facility for processing. The average Captiva resident’s cost for the system would be $2,000 a year over 30 years. Residents would also have to pay Sanibel in the same manner the city charges its citizens for the use of the island’s processing facility.

But this partnership between Sanibel and Captiva isn’t just for one project as the two islands are collaborating with the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation to apply for a shot at a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant.

The partnership started in 2019 through CCP’s Sea Level Rise Committee, with the islands applying for the same grant last year. While a grant wasn’t awarded, this year’s grants, which come from the NFWF National Coastal Resilience Fund, will split up $34 million and award the best proposals coming from coastal communities across the nation.

Sanibel and Captiva qualify as the grants are for projects that focus on planning, design and restoration of natural solutions that protect coastal communities from sea level rise.

Due both islands being less than 10 feet above sea level, the sea’s continuous rising from climate change can cause property, home and ecosystem damage, which is the main focus of the islands’ project.

With the sea level rise already causing problems on Captiva, SLR Committee Chair Linda Laird said it’s important to pursue a grant again in order to gain more information as to how sea level rise on the islands can be slowed down.

“This is going to give us an overall integrated plan that shows the vulnerabilities and adaptation of alternatives for the Sanibel and Captiva islands together, looking at both the human side of it, and the wildlife side of it,” Laird said in Tuesday’s CCP meeting.

While much progress has been made with both a central sewer system plan and a sea level rise grant application, there is still more work to be done with both projects.

However, leads for these projects, like Brown and Laird, were commended for their work as the CCP, and the rest of Captiva, is eager to see where this focus on the island’s water issues will take them.

“I think all the hard work that [you guys] have put together, I think it’s remarkable,” CCP member Tony Lapi said. “It’s great to see you giving birth to this baby, so to speak. We’ll see what it grows in to.”

Other CCP Items

COVID-19 Update:
• 11 cases on Captiva, 245 on Sanibel as of Tuesday morning
• Vaccines available to any Florida resident over the age of 18
• CDC and US Food and Drug Administration recommend a pause in the Johnson&Johnson vaccine distribution after six cases of rare blood clotting were reported
• At least 34 percent of Florida residents have gotten at least one dose. 21 percent are fully vaccinated in Florida, 22 percent for the whole United States

Police Updates:
• Lots of vacation homes are being rented out with some not following the rules
• Property owners can monitor their property with devices, like one that is called MINUT
• Doesn’t store or record video or audio, but can monitor how loud it’s getting, the number of cellular devices on the property, the temperature of the house, as well as whether other alarms go off. Sends updates right to the property owner’s phone

Tween Waters Inn Crow’s Nest Renovation
• The Inn came back to the CCP after it originally proposed this renovation before the pandemic started. Wanted to refresh panel members on what is going on
• Replacing the Crow’s Nest cook shack by the resort’s pool due to the building getting old
• Additional renovations will be made to the actual Inn, and construction is set to begin in April/May of 2022, lasting about four months

Integral Consulting Bayside Conceptual Adaptation Strategy Design Proposal
• The study will look at five places on the bayside of the island for high potential adaptation alternatives to reduce the impact of sea level rise and to protect the island
• Working with Integral Consulting Inc, which offers scientific and engineering consulting for projects like this. Will also hold public meetings to keep residents informed
• Approved by CCP and funded by several donors, including the CEPD and the SCCF

Iguana MSTU Update
• CCP has just under 400 petitions. Still need a total of 575 by the end of the month
• Without 575 petitions to the county, the unit will not be formed, which is likely to occur given how little time is left
• CCP will discuss what to do in a future meeting if this happens. Discussed funding coming directly from residents, or from the panel itself. Also discussed trying to form a smaller unit, which would repeat the petition process

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