Gathering data now to help rebuild Sanibel’s beaches after storms

A barrier island in Southwest Florida is planning ahead for the next big storm, making sure its beaches have enough sand to protect the rest of the island.

You can’t see a lot of erosion on Sanibel’s beaches, which is a good sign. The city keeps a close eye on its coastline, collecting data and preparing for what could happen to our beaches during a tropical storm or hurricane.

People who live and play on those beaches probably don’t think much about the work that goes into keeping those beaches sandy and the island protected.

“I’m here because I love the beaches and I still come here every day,” said Walter Schuman, a Sanibel resident.

“We’ve been coming here for years and will continue to come. We love Sanibel,” said Jackie Brown.

“Our family loves the water. We love the beach even though we’re in Colorado,” said Joe Gimbel.

Keith Williams, director of Community Services with the City of Sanibel, said the city closely monitors any changes and watches for coastal erosion.

“We annually contract out the surveying of all of our beach shoreline,” he said.

APTIM Environmental Infrastructure measures the location and elevation of the sand with the help of GPS monitors.

“Those GPS monitors actually speak to the satellites that orbit the earth,” Williams said.

The data is sent to the Department of Environmental Protection.

“They survey that and download it and produce a product for us that shows those profiles and by doing that annually, we’re going to track the everchanging profile of our beaches,” Williams explained.

He said erosion this year is nothing serious, but the data is still incredibly important.

“It gives us that background information that we’ll be able to go to if we ever need to rebuild our beaches.”

So if a major storm does hit, “this would give us the information that we need to build our beaches, to get them back to the position and location and condition they were prior to the storm.”

Williams said the crew is on track to finish their fieldwork next week. Once that’s done, it will take another five to six weeks to get the data fully analyzed.

Reporter:Emma Heaton
Writer:Jackie Winchester
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