The Conservancy of Southwest Florida is very pleased with the outcome of this week’s public and stakeholder meetings hosted by the United States Army Corps of Engineers regarding the Collier County Coastal Storm Risk Management (CSRM) study, which is a three-year feasibility study to improve coastal resilience in Collier County. Over 400 people attended the April 18 virtual meeting and close to 200 attended the in-person meeting held on April 26 at the South Regional Library for the kick-off of the re-initiated study.
Conservancy science and policy staff attended both public meetings and the three-day stakeholder meetings (April 25 to 27), where the Corps listened to public input and ideas from numerous local experts to help the Corps formulate alternative scenarios to improve storm resilience.
On April 11, the Board of County Commissioners reinitiated a previous CSRM study from 2018-2021, which resulted in a “2021 recommended plan.”
The Conservancy had significant concerns regarding the 2021 recommended plan in which the Army Corps stated that the surge barriers, gates, and floodwalls would result in “temporary to permanent impacts to aquatic resources and habitats that range from moderate to potentially significant.” For this new CSRM study, the Conservancy would like to see greater assurances that aquatic resources and our coastal economy are protected.
The Conservancy of Southwest Florida focused on five main requests at this week’s meetings:
- Allow for more public comment and additional public meetings.
- Offer a locally led alternative that would work best for our local coastal economy and coastal environment, instead of the 2021 recommended plan.
- Include nature-based solutions in the planning effort.
- Invite the Corps’ “Engineering with Nature” team to be part of the process.
- Include local scientists and engineers and other local experts in the process.
The Conservancy was very pleased when Army Corps stated that they will commit to all of these things, and they even offered more improvements from the previous study.
Here is how the Corps stated they will improve opportunities for public input:
- Although May 8, 2023 is the formal scoping period deadline, the Norfolk, VA Army Corps team stated that they will allow informal public input any time after that date. Comments are to be submitted here: Collieremail@example.com (We still encourage you to try to meet the May 8, 2023 deadline, because the sooner they hear from you the quicker you can influence the plan Alternatives).
- The Army Corps team has stated they will schedule additional public meetings over the summer after they come up with plan Alternatives. The Conservancy is very happy about this, as these meetings will allow the public to weigh in on different proposed alternatives before the Board of County Commissioners vote on a Tentatively Selected Plan in February 2024. The dates are to be determined, but soon they will be posted.
- The Army Corps team stated they are committed to allowing and encouraging input from local scientists, engineers, and experts, in addition to state and federal agency experts.
The Conservancy believes that the Army Corps, Collier County, and the community are headed in the right direction for this study, which should result in a storm risk management plan better suited for our community.
We thank the Army Corps for modifying their approach from the previous study, for adding additional opportunities for public input, and for really taking to heart the concerns of the Conservancy and the public. We look forward to working with the Army Corps and the County during this ongoing CSRM study.