Protecting the environment while rebuilding the Sanibel Causeway

Reporter: Elizabeth Biro Writer: Matthew Seaver
Published: Updated:

Sanibel has always let it be known they are committed to keeping the barrier island a sanctuary where plants and animals thrive alongside people.

When constructing the new causeway, engineers stayed true to this commitment.

Even with the cranes, driving over the Sanibel Causeway is an experience in itself with the glistening water, the mangroves on the horizon, and the animals.

It’s the first sign of the natural oasis you’re about to enter, and then you’re greeted with a sign saying, “Welcome to our sanctuary island. Do enjoy. Don’t destroy.”

Welcome to Sanibel sign. (Credit: WINK News)

“City of Sanibel residents in the area, just the community as a whole, the environment and the protection of the environment in this area is critical. And it’s very important to them,” said Kati Sherrard, an FDOT project engineer.

When reconstructing the causeway, project engineer Sherrard says they are constantly conversing with environmental groups to protect the abundance of natural resources and wildlife that lie around. “The Army Corps of Engineers, the Water Management District, the Florida Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries, as well as the Coast Guard.”

Sanibel Causeway. (Credit: WINK News)

“Anything from manatee to different types of fish, to mangroves to seagrasses. So really, you have something across the board here that we are evaluating and ensuring that we’re doing what we can to preserve and protect those species,” said Sherrard.

They are not only preserving what remains. “There were several areas that Hurricane Ian destroyed or deteriorated the quality of the seagrass that was already out here. So as part of this project, what we’re looking to do in cooperation and coordination with the environmental agencies is looking to restore those areas to the maximum extent possible so that those beds can grow back in the future,” Sherrard said.

The team worked to incorporate green infrastructure in addition to gray. “The gray infrastructure is the concrete type materials that you see on the project. But the green infrastructure is really looking for ways to utilize natural and native plants to the area to reestablish the coastlines here.”

Sherrard says they will have a clearer picture of seagrass and mangrove restoration in the upcoming months.

The causeway’s rebuilding process is a sign of progress, and how it’s being built showcases Sanibel’s everlasting commitment to the plants and animals that call it home.

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