Over 400 participants attended the April 18 virtual meeting for the Collier County Coastal Storm Risk Management (CSRM) Feasibility Study, hosted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Collier County.
This was an impressive number of attendees, especially since many members of the public had only recently learned of the study, after the Board of County Commissioners reinitiated it on April 11, just one week prior.
The Conservancy of Southwest Florida was encouraged by the many comments and questions that came in via chat, by members of the public and numerous stakeholders who stated they strongly supported a Locally Preferred Plan (LPP) that incorporates nature-based solutions for storm resilience.
Here is what the Army Corps confirmed at the April 18 virtual meeting:
- The 2021 recommended plan is still on the table as an alternative, which includes four massive floodwalls and a storm surge barrier at Wiggins Pass and at Doctors Pass.
- Nothing is set in stone. Although the Corps will likely start with the 2021 recommended plan, input from the public could drastically improve the direction and viability of that plan.
- A Locally Preferred Plan that works with nature and not against nature, is possible. However, the Board of County Commissioners must formally request an LPP from the Army Corps, and this must be done early in the study process.
- The Army Corps’ Engineering with Nature (EWN) team can be brought to the table. However, even though the EWN team will be at the April 2023 invitation-only charrettes, no one has confirmed that EWN will be involved in the entire planning process. It is our understanding that the Board of County Commissioners must make a formal request to the Army Corps that EWN is brought to the table.
- May 8, 2023 is a very important deadline for public comment. May 8 is the end of the Army Corps’ 30-day scoping period, which is the public’s only opportunity to provide the Corps directly with input on the type of storm risk plan that the public wants, before the County Commissioners select a Tentatively Selected Plan provided by the Corps in February 2024.
- Collier County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) have the final say. Ultimately, the BCC will vote to move forward or deny a Tentatively Selected Plan in February, so it is crucial that they understand the type of storm resilience plan that the public would like to see for our region. We believe that any long-term planning needs to work with nature, not against nature, as is proposed in the 2021 recommended plan.
What are the next steps?
- Come to the Army Corps in-person meeting, April 26 from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm at the South Regional Library, 8605 Lely Cultural Parkway, Naples.
- Contact your Board of County Commissioners and ask them to do the following:
- Please make a formal request to the Army Corps for a Locally Preferred Plan that incorporates nature-based solutions.
- Please formally invite the Army Corps’ “Engineering with Nature” Team to be involved in the CSRM study process.
- Ask them to slow the process down. Request additional time for public comment, extend the length of time of the Army Corps’ scoping period, and request additional meetings for the communities’ involvement. Two meetings before the Corps closes their official comment period is not sufficient, there should be a series of multiple meetings, including ample meetings during season.
- Do not forget to email the Army Corps with written comments by May 8, 2023! Email here: Collierfirstname.lastname@example.org