U.S. Army Corp of Engineers improvement plans against storm surge

Reporter: Asha Patel Writer: Paul Dolan
Published: Updated:

The United States Army Corp of Engineers has a plan for what future storms could look like and is preparing for them.

A flood wall is part of the plan, but it won’t look like a giant gray slab. Instead, they have an idea to make it nature-based. But the Conservancy of Southwest Florida said that’s not good enough for Collier County.

Their main concern is that the plan is just going too fast. The conservancy said the public should have the most say regarding a decision that could impact the environment they live around. They are hoping hundreds show up for the meeting Wednesday evening.

The United States Army Corps of Engineers are working on a study to improve managing storm surge in Collier County.

According to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, the corps offered a plan in 2020. It includes adding two massive floodgate structures at Wiggins Pass and Doctors Pass and a series of flood walls along several roadways, and conservancy members aren’t happy about it.

“This is probably the largest, most expensive, most impactful from landscape point of view type project that has occurred in collier county history,” Nicole Johnson, the director of environmental policy for the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.

Johnson said she and her team believe there is a better plan that protects the environment and the economy.

“You have tourism, you have fishing captains, commercial fishermen, all these people rely on a healthy environment, and when a project has such a detrimental impact that needs to be looked at in the front end and options that are more environmental compatible really need to be put into the process,” Johnson said.

Johnson said the conservancy is asking the Army Corps of Engineers for two things to slow the process down by holding more meetings and extending the public comment portion, ending May 8. And to have more of a locally preferred plan puts the community in the driver’s seat by incorporating nature-based solutions.

“If the public, if the community, if the county commission doesn’t get in there right now and say we want to be in the driver’s seat for this process, they’re going to lose that opportunity,” Johnson said.

The meeting should happen Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at the South Regional Library. Members of the conservancy emphasize people need to show up because it may be their last chance to speak about concerns regarding the project.

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