Thursday, October 28, 2021

A Look at the Waterways Advisory Committee

This is the third article in our series on the city’s advisory committees, which act as sounding and advisory boards to the Marco Island City Council. Many of the issues that come before city council will first be looked at by these advisory boards, if they are pertinent to those boards for their input.

With the many miles of canals and beaches that make up the landscape of the island itself, nothing should be more important to the community than that important asset. Over the years the Waterways Advisory Committee has been focused on issues concerning safe navigation of those waterways, ensuring those aids to navigation are properly displayed, and any encumbrances to navigation are addressed to provide safe passage.

The committee has also looked at improving the identification of canals and house numbers on docks to provide mariners in distress, whether from equipment failures or other mishaps that might render their crafts disabled. The ability to identify a land-based address to dispatch emergency personnel to assist in case of medical emergencies is another concern they have been involved in.

The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill would focus islanders on a concern regarding impact to our local beaches and waterways and engaged the committee in discussions regarding the effects such incidents could and would have on the island’s economy.

In the last several years more emphasis has been placed on “water-quality” issues. The impact that 50 years of development have had on our waterways, issues concerning nitrates/phosphates into the waters surrounding the island and how to move forward in a pro-active manner have been before that group for the last three years or so.

The city itself, through its ratepayers made a considerable investment into the completion of the wastewater management system with the elimination of septic tanks throughout the island, in addition to a complete rebuilding of the treatment facilities themselves. Those not on the existing centralized wastewater system were required to hook-up to the expanded city system at costs ranging from $16,000 to $20,000 plus.

The large discharges from Lake Okeechobee of highly enriched toxic algae-laden waters down the Caloosahatchee River to the west coast of Florida and into the Saint Lucie River on the east coast to relieve pressure on a weakened Hoover Dike System, helped to initiate a perfect-storm scenario. This in combination with large red tide events here in Southwest Florida focused serious attention on the issues here in Southwest Florida when the two would collide.

Although Marco had minimal impact from those issues north of here, city leaders are aware of the need to have a comprehensive action plan created. That plan will have to involve the identification of sources regarding the impacts to our waters, create a strategy to deal with it, and find the funding to put that plan into action. The Waterways Advisory Committee has been diligently working on that goal and the next meeting is scheduled for August 15 at council chambers.

The city has now employed a full-time storm-water engineer, Jason Tomassetti and the committee will be working directly with him as the city liaison to that group.

The committee has also identified four major areas of focus for itself in the next year.

  • Safe navigation;
  • Water quality;
  • Access to waterways;
  • Keeping the City Council and residents aware of issues regarding waterways.

All meetings of the committee are open to the public and are also televised on the local public access channel on either Comcast or Summit Broadband on the island.

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