Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Perspectives On the Health of Tigertail Lagoon

Guest Commentary

On Thursday, November 19, I addressed the City’s Waterways Advisory Committee, per their invitation, regarding the current state of Tigertail lagoon.  

My personal motivation for writing and speaking to these issues is a concern for the health of the lagoon and potential consequences to human health.  

Photo 1 shows a group of visitors wading across Tigertail lagoon to the beach. Wading with pre-existing cuts and abrasions is a potential health risk in bacteria-laden waters.

On Wednesday, November 18th, Adam Dinuovo, an ornithologist for Audubon Florida, addressed the Beach and Coastal Resources Advisory Committee regarding Black Skimmer chicks that died on Marco during the summer nesting season. 

According to Dinuovo, the chicks died from ‘Septic Arthritis’, which is a condition arising from bacterial infections.  Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) had some of those dead birds analyzed to identify bacterial species, but as yet have failed to publicly disclose any results.

Photo 2: Latest Manatee and calf stranded in Tigertail lagoon on November 19th at low tide. In the last two months we’ve had 12 manatees stranded due to low tide.

There is just one regular water testing program involving lagoon water. Mandated by the State, this test is for a single bacterial species. I believe more extensive testing program is warranted, but lacking a mandate and budget, no agency is likely going to advocate for such a program.

It is important to acknowledge that Tigertail lagoon supports multiple interests, with different priorities. Hideaway Beach Association (HBA) the property immediately bordering the lagoon’s eastern shore, for many years enjoyed recreational opportunities for kayaking and paddle boarding on the lagoon. However, HBA also periodically renourish their beach and thereby introduced another source of sand into the lagoon.   The “Critical Wildlife Area”, on the sand spit of Sand Dollar Island, is recognized as such for the habitat it provides for threatened and endangered bird life, while the waters of the lagoon occasionally feature visiting Manatees. 

Figure 3: Zonal map in the 2019 lagoon report prepared by Humiston & Moore. Manatee strandings have occurred in Zone 2.

Unfortunately, Manatees in search of tasty sea grasses in the southern reaches of the lagoon can find themselves stranded in shallow sections as the tides change, (Photo 2), in locations as shown on the zonal map (Figure 3). . Finally, Tigertail Beach is a County-run facility, providing access to beach recreation and a source of revenue to the County.

The trail by which we arrived here is long and tortuous. Multiple government agencies each fill different roles. Among the complicating factors are: overlapping responsibilities, different jurisdictional areas (city, county, state or federal), differing funding mechanisms and restrictions on their activities, all play their parts. Figure 4 shows best understanding of organizational stances. 

For example, the Manager of Collier County Coastal Zone Management responded to the concerns of the South Seas Home Owner’s Association Chair, stating that the issues “do not fall under the County’s responsibility”, “the County has no funding to renourish Tigertail Beach”, and “the State …prefers to leave Tigertail lagoon in its natural state”. 

I was delighted to find Dr. Mohamed Dabees, a marine engineer with Humiston & Moore Engineering (H&M) in the WAC audience, invited by Tim Pinter, Director of Marco’s Public Works. Dr. Dabees is the engineer who oversaw a survey of the lagoon, underwritten by the HBA.  Mr. Pinter reported that Hideaway Beach is working with H&M to come up with a ‘Management Plan’ for the area.

In his closing comments Dr. Dabees identified Tigertail as a ‘declining system’, and if nothing happens to change the current trends, it seems likely the lagoon will close off and there will be no water flushing, potentially resulting in a stagnant, toxic pond.

My hope is that the current conversations will encourage public engagement. Today, Tigertail lagoon serves many purposes:  a wildlife haven, attracting ornithologists from many places, a desirable recreational facility for all visitors and beach access in an area where soaring populations are increasing access pressures.  Please speak up, for without public engagement the status quo will persist and that Tigertail lagoon will continue to diminish in value.


Tigertail lagoon and its environs.

One response to “Perspectives On the Health of Tigertail Lagoon”

  1. Tom O'Reilly says:

    The comment that it’s a County Beach leaves one with the impression that there is nothing that can be done to correct the problem with the Lagoon.
    Can we start a group to help find a solution? Why don’t we try to find a solution. We all know the problem let’s get to work saving our Beach,
    I would be happy to be the first to volunteer.

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