Replacing more than 50,000 tons of sand on Sanibel beaches washed away by Hurricane Ian

Reporter: Elizabeth Biro Writer: Paul Dolan
Published: Updated:

A sign of hurricane recovery will also serve as more protection for an island ripped to shreds by Hurricane Ian. Dozens of trucks are taking more than 50,000 tons of sand to Sanibel beaches to replace the eroded sand from Hurricane Ian.

At beaches on the northwestern part of Sanibel and the south end of Blind Pass, WINK News saw many trucks come in on Monday dumping fresh sand on the shoreline.

WINK News spoke to one of the environmental groups monitoring the entire process.

“Always has been one of our favorites,” said Brenda Yurs and McKenna Mason, both visiting from Wisconsin.

Whether you’re soaking in the sun, waking down the shoreline or searching for sea shells, you may not think there’s anything wrong with the sand at Sanibel’s Blind Pass Beach.

Ty Reagan thinks the sand on the beach is special.

“Well, it’s the real sand. I mean, you’ve got the shells, you don’t have the white fluffy sand. I mean, it’s old-school Florida,” said Reagan.

Old school Florida because, as the Sanibel Captiva Coastal Wildlife director Kelly Sloan explains, historically, Sanibel has not renourished its beaches.

“So that’s all the natural sand that you’re seeing out there,” said Sloan.

That’s how Sanibel likes it, and wildlife like the natural sand too.

“When you bring in sand during the nesting season, it can have negative impacts on our coastal wildlife, including the turtles and shorebirds,” said Sloan. “Sea turtles, of course, lay their eggs on the sandy nesting beaches, and if you were to bring in the sand and put it on top of that, that would be obviously pretty detrimental.”

But during special cases, like Hurricane Ian, a Category 4 storm, expectations have to be made. Blind Pass and Turner Beach will receive approximately 70,000 tons of sand from the Stewart Mine in Immokalee. Sanibel works closely with environmental groups like SCCF.

“We are contracted to relocate all nests that are laid on the beach starting 65 days before the project begins,” said Sloan.

SCCF’s sea turtle and shorebird teams will be out every morning monitoring for the duration of the project. Work is expected to be finished in about 90 days.

Lee County commissioners voted in January to accept grant funds of $5 million from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to replace sand on Lee County beaches after Hurricanes Ian and Nicole.

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