Published: Aug 07, 2012 6:14 PM EDT
Updated: Aug 07, 2012 6:17 PM EDT

SANIBEL, Fla. - Boaters using canals on the east side of Sanibel will soon have easier access to the Gulf.

Tuesday afternoon, the city approved the emergency dredging of the channel leading out from Sanibel Marina. Right now, the mouth of the Shell Harbor canal system is passable, but sand has started to collect in one half of the channel, forcing boaters to navigate through a much narrower pass.

Capt. Chris Mart, of the Shadow Fox, is familiar with the regular build-up of sand in this area, and the problems it can cause.

"Every winter, usually by February or March, is when it really starts to build up," Mart says, "We draw 5 and 1/2 feet of water, and in the past, we've had problems when that shoals in. There's no way of us even leaving the dock."

Scott Krawczuk, the acting director of Sanibel's Public Works Department, says maintenance at Shell Harbor is done every one to two years, but since the causeway was completed, the channel has needed more attention. Some boaters have questioned whether the situation calls for a more permanent solution, like a rock jetty.

"That way we don't have to worry about it," says Kaleb Pambuena, a captain who runs boat tours between Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel Marina. "It should cost a lot less money if it's done right the first time."

Krawczuk says that option is not on the table right now, but could be a possibility later.

"At this point, we're continuing with the dredging, and I think we might have to explore other options in the future," Krawczuk says.

The funds for this dredging project are coming from the city's reserves, he says. The bidding process is still underway, but estimates are around $30,000. Public Works says it could be complete within the next few weeks.