U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Collier County partner in long-term $3B hurricane protection plan

Reporter: Rachel Cox-Rosen Writer: Jack Lowenstein

With about two months left in hurricane season, a major plan is being designed to protect homes and businesses from future storm damage in Collier County. While the planning is well underway, work will not happen anytime soon.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Collier County are partnering to carry out a $3 billion plan anywhere between the next five to 10 years to protect the county during hurricane seasons.

The federal government is expected to cover 65% of a $3 billion price tag. Collier County must come up with the rest of approximately $1.05 billion over the span of the project.

MORE: Collier County Coastal Storm Risk Management Feasibility Study

We spoke to the the engineers and the county Friday about what the project entails.

“This is absolutely amazing. This is a beautiful beach,” Kendra German said.

German, a frequent beachgoer, says Wiggins Pass is special.

“Even though the weather’s bad, we don’t care,” German said.

But Collier County beaches are at risk from sea level rise and storm surge largely because of the flat coast.

“It just makes it easier for waves to roll up, and the first thing they hit is our beaches,” said Gary McAlpin, the manager for Collier County’s coastal zone management. “And if the beaches can’t protect them, then, they over top lagoons, and they’re into our infrastructure.”

So the county is working with the engineers on a plan to help. It includes almost 10 miles of beach improvements, including widening and creating taller dunes.

“Storm surge barriers in several areas, flood walls and associated pump stations, as well as protection for critical infrastructure,” said Susan E. Layton, who is the chief for the planning and policy branch of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Norfolk District. “By that, we mean police stations, fire stations medical facilities.”

The plan also includes flood proofing commercial buildings, elevating homes and even acquiring high-risk homes.

Collier County officials say it’s well worth it.

“If you look at super storm sandy up in the Northeast, what did it do?” McAlpin said. “It destroyed communities that weren’t protected from storm surge, and that’s what the Corps is trying to protect.”

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