NORTH NAPLES, Fla - After weeks of waiting, dredging equipment is on the beach and the permit to dredge Clam Pass has arrived.
At a press conference Thursday, Collier County commissioner Georgia Hiller held the official permit high announcing dredging could start as early as Monday afternoon.
Before work can begin, the Department of Environmental Protection must conduct a site inspection. Hiller says that is happening Monday morning at 9 a.m. and shovels could be in the sand by the afternoon. For weeks, residents and tourists have anxiously been awaiting the Army Corp of Engineers to approve the permit.
Holding up the permit, Hiller said it was produced in record time. "For our residents at home, record time for government is 60 days."
The owner of Naples based Kyle Construction says his crews can get the work done in 15 days.
"That in itself would be amazing given the fact we're going to move 20,000 cubic yards of material," says Pelican Bay Services Division administrator Neil Dorrill.
County Manager Leo Ochs issued a 24/7 work order so crews can dredge through the night. If all goes according to plan, crews could be done dredging in 15 days.
Crews will start in the bay and work their way forward towards the Gulf of Mexico. The canal will be approximately four feet deep at low tide and six feet deep at high tide.
For more than two months, beach goers took matters into their own hands, shoveling a trench to get water back to the mangroves, hoping this day would come sooner rather than later.
"We knew if this wasn't going to happen soon, even our efforts as the diggers was pretty much shut down," says resident and digger Scott Streckenbein. "It's really awesome. This is really about everyone who is vested in this estuary and this beach and it's going to be great."
The entire dredging project will cost $250,000 and is paid with tourist tax dollars. The work is expected to disrupt beachgoers, but officials say most of the heaving dredging will take place at night.
The Nationwide 3 permit could keep the pass open for two years, but officials caution a large storm could close it right back up again. If that happens, they would need to go through this permit process again to get permission to dredge. In the meantime, county leaders are working applying for a long term ten year dredging permit.